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  • Writer's pictureKathy Gross

YES! NO! MAYBE? Discerning the Right Response to Requests for Our Time

Pause for a moment and tally how many requests for your help you’ve received in the past month.

  • Did the sign-up sheet for this school year’s committees just flash before your eyes?

  • What roles do you play in your home church?

  • What community responsibilities have you accepted?

You get my point; the list could go on and on! One thing I’ve noticed about educators is that we are in a very likely position to be asked to do extra things not only at school but also at church, in the neighborhood, and in the community. I don’t blame people for trying to snag you for things! After all, educators are desirable for jobs, committees, leadership roles, and volunteering because we are dependable, talented, efficient, and servant-minded.

What is your typical first response?

Chances are, some of us tend to automatically say, “Yes!” However, over-committing can have unintended consequences such as burn out, damaging our health, sacrificing family time, or disappointing ourselves and others by being spread too thin.

Some may be on the other side of the coin tending to say, “No!” Declining invitations can be because we are tired or have intentionally set healthy boundaries. Perhaps some of us decline because it’s easier to let others keep doing it. We may honestly believe that we can’t do things as well as others, so we avoid responsibilities.

Finally, some may choose to put off answering. Our response is “Maybe?” There are multiple reasons why we delay responding. Maybe we need time to think, or maybe we are secretly hoping that they’ll find someone else and forget to come back to us for an answer.

Does one of the three categories above represent your typical reaction? Let’s think further about our choices.

How do you determine when to say yes or no?

How do you decide whether to accept or decline an invitation? Do you decide quickly? Do you sleep on it? Do you pray about it? Do you analyze the time commitment? Do you check with others before answering? I challenge you to think about your tendencies and consider if you should continue or discontinue those.

When I retired, I was excited about the opportunity to do things that I hadn’t had time to do before. I was looking forward to saying yes to new things. What I’m learning is that I still have to be cautious about my commitments. One day last month I actually had to respond negatively to three really cool things, all in one day! This was hard for me, but I knew God was giving me the opportunity to be obedient with priorities and boundaries.

I had a very wise friend once caution me by saying, “Just because we can do something well doesn’t mean we should do it!” In my opinion, educators are good at so many things! So, of course, those who notice pursue you to do things. My caution to each of us is we want our priorities and finite minutes of each day to be spent on what God desires for us. Perhaps asking ourselves the questions below would guide our thoughts appropriately.

How might this opportunity open doors to let my light shine?

● Will I be stretched in a positive way by accepting this?

● Is a God-given talent being leveraged by this opportunity?

● Would my involvement eliminate the chance for another’s growth?

God made each of us with unique talents and abilities. When we assume that no one can do something as well as we’re doing it, we may need a dose of humility (Philippians 2:3-5). When we agree to do something for which someone else is better suited, we’ve taken away an opportunity for that other person to shine. I bet you’ve seen what I’ve seen—the same few people tapped on the shoulder for many things, causing others to feel detached or unneeded. In a perfect world, each person would contribute meaningfully, and everything would get done! The bottom line is we want to be intentional about how we use our time and talents as we acknowledge every individual has something to offer.

Are there quick indicators that would cause us to know if we should decline an invite? I recently saw this “Quotes Cafe” reminder from one of our members on her personal social media (thanks, friend), and it really caught my eye. Can you relate?

If you’re not sure, it’s a no.

If you don’t want to, it's a no.

If you’re not ready, it’s a no.

If your intuition says no, it’s a no.

If it feels bad, fake, forced, off, uncomfortable, or weird, it’s a no.

Maturity is saying no without apologizing when enforcing your boundaries.

Recently, I’ve tried to employ some tips I’ve read about how to gracefully refuse. One that worked for me via email recently was, “Thank you for asking, but I can’t at this time. I wish you the best with this work!” Another option would be to say, “I am honored by your request but need to decline this opportunity.” If you have learned how to respectfully decline, feel free to write your phrasing in the comment section so that the rest of us can benefit from your experience.

There are also indicators that direct us to say, “Yes!” Feel free to also share in the comments how you determine when to agree to an offer. I’ve noticed that when I’m praying about a decision, feeling a peace or excitement about an opportunity is often a signal to accept. Being involved in something God has called us to do is such a gift. Isn’t it neat that He uses us? Even if it’s something that we think we can’t do, we can with His help. I’m sure you’ve heard, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” Let’s remember this especially when agreeing is a bit scary (2 Peter 1:3 and Hebrews 13:20-21).

Let’s practice. VEM is seeking volunteers to write a blog. Should you accept this invitation? Really, only you and God know the answer to that question. Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have time!” If that is true, you shouldn’t consider taking on this task. However, there is someone out there who is a talented writer, and God has been tugging at you to use your talent. You are the one who needs to say “Yes!” Some of you may be on the fence and will think about it; perhaps you will be willing in the future. The important thing is that not a single one of us should be doing this or anything else with guilt or pride as our motivation. When we say a “yes” that can be blessed, it’s “doing the right thing for the right reason.” (Another very wise Christian educator taught me that quote, and I use it often!)

Put first things first.

Remember that the most important priority we should have is to please God. Many of us are pleasers; we want to please our families, coworkers, supervisors, and friends. Before we know it, we are overcommitting by trying to be everything to everyone. The bottom line is we should be striving daily to please our Lord!

How might you know when an opportunity is an open door from the Lord? There’s a song recorded by Larnelle Harris entitled, “I Miss My Time With You.” The lyrics are from the perspective of God, reminding us that He desires time with us. The song explains that sometimes we’re “so busy trying to serve” Him we forget to love Him. This is a kind reminder to myself, and to each of you, that as we are busy serving, we must also remember to take time to cling to the One who gives us the ability to serve. He loves us and wants a relationship with us! He is our strength and wisdom, and He orders our steps.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:5-7)

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Psalms 37:23

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. Psalms 85:13

Determine the right response.

As you work through the school year, remember you have options when approached with invitations.

● “Sure! I’d be happy to help!”

● “I need to say no this time.”

● “Let me think about it. How much time can I have to get back to you?”

Each opportunity deserves its own consideration, so select carefully before you say your typical go-to! Which should it be this time? Yes! No! Maybe? That’s between you and your Maker.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5



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