Living Simply Saturday: No is not a dirty word


Do you think she wrote this chapter of From Clutter to Clarity
with me in mind? (Oh wait… are all the rest of you thinking the same thing?)

Sigh. Why is it so hard to say no to the things that just don’t truly fit into our schedule, don’t fit with our priorities and values, make us too stressed and busy to do the things God has called us to in the first place, and often,are things we don’t even like or want to do?

I think this quote from Ch.8 sums up much of what Nancy says quite nicely:

For busy career women, wives and mothers, wasting time is usually not our problem. We face another kind of challenge: sorting through all we could be doing to find what we should be doing. There are enough good things out there to keep us busy 24/7. But saying yes to all of them means we say no to other things that are truly more important. Being yes-women means that the values we want to make our priority- marriage, children, friendships, our walk with God- are often neglected while we devote much more time and energy to less consequential things. Clarifying means learning to look past the endless demands for our attention in order to align our schedules with our values.

My husband had a previous pastor who often reminded him that “the good is the enemy of the best”. How often I find that to be true! Nancy is right, in saying that there are enough “good” things out there to keep us continually busy.

The difficulty really comes in sifting through them, prayerfully considering each one, talking it over with my husband, and determining whether each opportunity or good thing truly deserves to be on my schedule, and what amount of my time and energy it will receive. It is just so easy to let myself feel guilty and say yes to a million things that I know that I really don’t have the ability to do, at least not if I’m to keep my priorities in order.

Life is short. Each day is precious. I want to spend each day doing the work that God has intended for me, being where He has called me to be, loving whom He has asked me to love, to the very best of my ability (and fully dependent on His strength and grace). It is my responsibility in each new season of life to be purposeful about asking Him what he has for me, so that I can be diligent and faithful. Good stewardship goes beyond caring for my body, the earth, our finances… how I choose to spend my time is an enormous aspect of stewarding what God has so lovingly given me.

Reading this chapter reminded me that it is high time I got myself out for a day or even an afternoon, to take a personal retreat. I haven’t had one for quite some time, and I am really feeling (and seeing!) the lack of it in my life right now. If you have never taken a personal retreat, you can read more about my own experience in beginning this wonderful and helpful practice. I highly recommend the book Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed, because I found its chapters on personal retreats and setting priorities in relationships to be invaluable.

I’ll leave you with this sweet reminder of what can happen when we seek God before cramming our schedules full and saying yes to the multitudes of people and groups who “simply cannot do without us” (don’t worry- they can!),

When you truly put first things first, all other things fall in line. Confusion dissipates. Decisions are much less difficult. If an activity or commitment fits with what you value most and what you believe God is calling you to do, the answer is yes. If an activity or commitment doesn’t fit with your priorities, the answer is an unapologetic no. Instead of feeling torn, you can rest in the knowledge that you are right on target- putting your energy where it needs to be.

Do you struggle with feeling like no is a dirty word? What makes you feel that way? For those who don’t find it difficult to say no, what has helped you to learn to guard your time, and how do you establish your priorities and decide which opportunities to take or turn down?

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  1. I’ve been writing about learning to say “no” for months now LOL. So nice to hear another post about what really matters. Thanks!


  2. This one can be hard for me, too – looking at is at good vs best is a great perspective!

    I also heard a great speaker once who said that the 80/20 rule applies to all of us. There is something we are giving our 80% to and the rest of the stuff just gets 20% – that is just how it is. So, now when I see someone giving there all and feel bad I am not doing as much, I just recognize that this may be her 80% thing and there are other things that she is only giving 20% to.

    In the end, we have to answer to ourselves and to God – that is it.

  3. Hi! I don’t know if you have heard of “Managers of their homes” by the Maxwells It is wonderful….all their books & items are…..They have a GREAT childrens series called the “Moody” series that is great for kids…..They just came out with a new book called “Managers of their schools” that looks great…..would be great for anyone wanting to home school…..

  4. It is so important to know when and how to say no!! It is so easy to get over burdened and not have enough time for the most important things!!

  5. I used to find it more difficult to say no than I do now. I think what helped me change some is to have in mind what each season’s main goal is. Of course there are always the priorities I try to keep in order of how each thing fits in with God, my husband, my daughter, my home, and my church and other things. Some goals will stay the same for a long time, but others change with the seasons of life and that is what I mean. If whatever I am asked to do/want to do interferes with the priorites mentioned above or my main goal of the season I am in, then I can’t do it. For example, right now, I am in a season of needing to focus on preparing for having a new baby and getting enough rest to insure that it goes as well as possible. So I have scaled way back on the things that I do outside of my home in light of my lack of energy, need to preserve what energy I have, and need to attend many appointments that take time and energy. So basically I try to see what I want to/am asked to do whether it fits in with my priorities and the main goal of whatever season I am in. If it doesn’t, then I realize that my job is to say no. I am called to do a good job of being a homemaker so this is what I see I have to do. I know, overly simplified but it is my aim to do this.

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