It was a simple question. I just wasn’t expecting it. I sat there for a few seconds waiting for my answer to jump out of my mouth but instead, heard myself say, “I don’t know.”
After more reflection I realized I was making myself do things, like finishing a book I no longer cared about.
I’m not abdicating being a quitter, let me make that clear. What I’m talking about is when we do things for the wrong reasons.
Have you ever found yourself doing something because you feel obligated? We’re afraid if we don’t do it, we’ll feel guilty. It’s funny because some people don’t struggle with this at all. They have freedom. They listen to their inner self and graciously say “no” when needed. They don’t even feel obligated to give a reason.
In their book, Boundaries, by Townsend and Cloud, they talk about being able to say “no.” They say if you love someone you can receive a “no.”
Before reading that book I foolishly thought if someone loved me they would want to please me, period. I came to realize some of my requests were really demands. How do I know? Well, when something is a request the person has a choice to either grant your request or to deny it. If it’s a demand, when the answer is “no,” someone pays. They pay dearly. Displeasure has a way of seeping out.
How many times have you done something because you were afraid of how it might look if you didn’t? This is especially hard when the thing you are being asked to do is a helpful thing. Aren’t we supposed to help people? The answer is yes. But the real question is, do you think it’s your job to help everyone? And if no one steps up, is it your responsibility?
Even Jesus didn’t do everything people asked of him. Why did I think I needed to?
I wonder how many things I’ve done for the sake of appearances? I’d rather not count if you don’t mind.
So what do we do?
When being asked to do something you can:
- take your time
- listen to your gut
- be authentic
Unless it’s a life or death issue, you can take time, letting the idea simmer. You have that choice. I was always amazed when I’d hear others say, “I’ll get back to you.” I always thought I should have an answer right then. A Pastor I knew used to tell his children, “If you want an immediate answer, the answer will be no.”
Listening to your gut may take some practice. Try imagining yourself doing the thing you were asked to do. How do you feel? Now imagine yourself NOT doing it. Are you relieved, or do you feel like you would miss out by not doing it? Too often we look to others for their opinions instead of going with our gut feelings.
Be yourself. Don’t do things you’d rather not do. Otherwise the seed of resentment will start to grow. If you choose to do things you want to do, you won’t have to paste on a smile.
I’m still learning. I’m taking inventory of the things I do. And when I subtract the things I am making myself do, I find I have more energy.
How about you? What are you doing, and why?