Welcome back to the Grace of Yes discussion, hosted by CatholicMom.com. We’ve been discussing Lisa Hendey’s terrific book, The Grace of Yes. You can see the thread at CatholicMom.com here, and my post on the topic are all here.
In a book filled with ways to say “Yes” to God, it seems odd at first to have a chapter dedicated to saying “No” instead. But Lisa explains the importance of saying no once in a while with this story:
My friend Marlene shared a saying in our couples’ Bible study that’s become a favorite of mine. Speaking of a church lady she knew who was on every committee and at the helm of every project, Marlene said, “She’s so heavenly minded that she’s no earthly good.”
Oh, how I’ve been there! And even now, I know I’ve over-extended myself and that I have no way out of it until the end of the school year. Lisa recommends three questions to ask ourselves before we take on yet another project:
° How will this situation touch my soul?
° How does this situation impact my primary vocation as wife and mother?
° How does this situation impact upon other commitments I’ve already made?
I honestly should tattoo these on my body where I can see them every time someone asks me to do something. All too often, I say yes to something out of guilt, feeling as if a project won’t get done if I’m not the one who helps to do it. I want to help, I know I can do what needs to be done, but then once I’m involved, I start feeling like it was a big mistake.
The tough thing is that even though I know there are other people busier than me who take on similar projects and still thrive, I have to remember my personal limitations and keep myself in check. My personality — the personality God gave me — puts limitations on the number of things I can do without getting overwhelmed. Even though there’s a working mom of three who is doing more ministries at the parish than I do, that doesn’t mean I have to take more on myself. It’s not a contest. It’s not a quota sheet. My natural introverted personality means that I start shutting down before other people do.
And when I shut down because I’m overwhelmed, it’s my primary vocation that suffers, because it’s the one place where I’m not accountable to anyone outside our home.
Unfortunately, I usually let myself get overwhelmed before I admit that I’ve taken on too much, and then I have to put my head down and push through until my obligations are met and I can step back from things.
Let’s take a look at some of the questions from the end of the chapter:
° Do you have a difficult time saying no to people who ask for your help?
I think I’ve pretty much admitted I do. What’s funny is that even though I’ve gotten better at it over the years, and I manage to say no more frequently than I used to, I still struggle with turning down a request. The biggest example I can think of is teaching Sunday school, which I’m good at, but has over-extended me once again.
° Why is this a challenge for you?
I think it’s a challenge simply because I don’t want to let people down, and I want to help people when I know I’m able to do what they’re asking (at least in theory). My inclination is to help someone who asks me when I can. But I do need to know when to say no — when my plate is truly full. It’s just hard when I know someone is struggling to fill a position I’m capable of filling. (Again, in theory — actual mileage may vary depending on the rest of my life!)
° What factors do you consider when you are asked to help with a project or to assist someone?
After considering if I’m even able to do something, I really have to consider the time it will take for me to do it well. I don’t like doing things badly, even if Chesterton gives me permission to do so. I have to consider my obligations to my husband and children first of all. If I take on a project, will it impact our homeschool? Will it impact my ability to run our home and take care of things while Nathan is working? Will I be unable to get my girls to their dance and soccer practices, games, and performances?
And, just as importantly, am I up to doing One More Thing?
If I fail to consider things like this, I’ll wind up taking on more than I can handle. And I do it, time and again. I know when my responsibilities are balanced because I can do what I need to without an overwhelming sense of anxiety that I’m not finishing what I need to and doing anything well, to boot. But when I cut back and drop non-essential projects and responsibilities, my life feels like it’s in balance and I feel a much greater sense of peace about my vocation.
That’s the balance we all need to strike.
Join the discussion here in the comboxes or at CatholicMom.com, and be sure to check out the rest of the posts on this week’s chapter.