When to Say “No” to Good Things

Every couple handles commitment differently.  First, there is the couple that is prone to overcommitting.  Both are constantly in a mindset of, “We are the only two people in the world who can do this.  We don’t have a choice!”  Next, there is the couple that is prone to protecting their own time.  They cheer on the willingness of others, never daring to step into the game themselves.  Lastly, there is the couple that has one of each of these personalities.  And this category is where my wife and I can be found.

If there is ever a sign-up sheet to volunteer, you’ll find Susan’s name at the top of the list.  I’m amazed at her compassionate heart and servant attitude.  However, I’m also amazed at how much time she thinks she has.  My wife is the queen of overcommitting.  As for me, I find myself constantly corralling her back into reality—reminding her that everything she commits to takes time from something else.  So here is some advice for all the wonderfully compassionate people out there who find themselves exhausted from overcommitting…because too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help you decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to good things:

1. Am I protecting time with my spouse?  Be intentional in setting up a weekly or monthly date night with your spouse.  If a volunteer opportunity comes up that interferes with your date night, just say “no.”  Plan around this special night so you are able to love your spouse well before loving others well.

2. Am I protecting time with my kids?  If you are missing your son’s basketball games or your daughter’s dance practices to pursue other good things, then you are not protecting your time with your kids. Spend time with your kids before you commit to spending time with your clients or colleagues. Also, before you commit endless hours serving in your community, first make sure you spend quantity time with your kids. And when you do serve in your community, do it with your kids.

3. Is this an area that I can use my gifts? Avoid spreading yourself too thin. Give your best to just a few important things, rather than a mediocre effort to too many things. Be strongly committed to the opportunities that allow you to use your gifts well.

4. Do I have margin in my schedule? Just because you have an open slot in your schedule doesn’t mean you have to fill it, even with good opportunities. Be sure to leave some open time for rest, reflection, and unexpected occurrences that will surely arise.

Take some time to examine your lifestyle, specifically, what you and your spouse are involved in.  Are there any commitments you need to pursue more or any commitments you need to let go of?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Dr Richard Norris

    The best leaders (at work, rest and play) are the one’s who can say “No”. When you say no you are more proactive and responsive rather than reactive. I’ve had friends and clients who cannot say know. I challenge them to say no to one thing per day. It’s amazing how liberating they find it!

  • Mike

    Also, the question must be asked of yourself, “am I really doing this straight from the heart?”. Some people are recognition seekers, and they like to volunteer for things that
    will win them this and gain gratitude from others. Taking care of your own family does
    not always give one this instant gratification. However, taking care of your own first, is
    what really counts the most.

  • Rick

    I love your thoughts and “qualifiers”for serving. I have tried to serve where my wife and kids are. Serve by facilitating a marriage group with your spouse , or at your children’s church

  • Good ideas for serving Rick-thanks.

  • True, serving your family first may seem thankless, but like any good investment it will pay dividends in the future.

  • John Coloe

    Awesome advice Mark, as always! Love the part about leveraging spiritual giftedness. Too often people confuse God-given talents with their spiritual gifts.

    While we may certainly be able to serve out of our God-given talents–tangible manifestations of the capabilites God bestowed upon us (think mechanical ability, technically adeptness, etc.)–we achieve our greatest contributions when we leverage our spiritual gift(s); those intangible qualities that, when employed in service to others, bring us the greatest fulfillment, as well as the greatest glory to God.

    By way of example, I’d served for years by *doing*. However, not until I became aware of my spiritual gifts (knowledge and leadership) and employed these in service, did my servant life “take off”. Serving out of my God-given talents left me drained. In contrast, leading with my spiritual gifts energizes me. I also believe that the impact of my service is manifold in comparison.

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