Just Say ‘Yes’…or Maybe ‘No’

An opportunity comes your way. If you’re shy and unadventurous people advise you to, ‘Just say yes.’ If you’re already overly-busy and a people-pleaser, then they advise you to, ‘Just say no.’ But it’s not always as straightforward as that.

Particularly when I was younger, I feared the unknown. I said ‘no’ to things that seemed risky – even if I secretly longed to do them. I used to go to a Gospel Choir and one day they asked if anyone wanted to sing a solo. My heart and mind were shouting, ‘Yes!’ but my mouth said, ‘I sort of do.’ They heard it as ‘no’, and the opportunity passed me by. I was angry with them for not realising that I was desperate to sing a solo; I was even more angry with myself. I got into the car and sang the choir songs at the top of my voice…

This approach to opportunities continued, on and off, until I was about eighteen. The frustration with myself built to a point where the sense of failure was getting too much. I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t do things; I was a failure because I wouldn’t do things. And so I started to say, ‘Yes.’

I joined Crossfit. I started to run. I started to write again. I organised concerts. I tried random new things, just for the sake of it. I even said ‘yes’ to things which terrified me, because living with the alternative had become unbearable. I faced the fear and did it anyway.

But sometimes things go too far the other way. Many of us struggle to use the ‘no’ word (as I do now). We feel the pressure from ourselves and from other people, and worry about letting them down. If it’s a personal project, we worry that if we let the opportunity pass us by we might never get another opportunity. Yet when we surround ourselves with a blanket of busyness we are at risk of missing the important things – the things we should be doing.

I now have to be more careful about what I say ‘yes’ to, because I’m at a different stage of life, and I can get overwhelmed. We all have limited resources; it can be hard to know how we should use them.

Our response to different opportunities has to vary depending on our character, stage of life, and situation. We must each find our own ‘yes/no’ balance, so that we are able to use our gifts to the full.

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