As one who longs to please others, I thought I had to do it all. If someone at church asked me to do something, without even thinking I would respond "sure!" If one of my friends asked if I was free, as long as that spot on the calender was open regardless of what I had personally planned for that time, I answered "of course!" Only thing is that later, I would regret my "yes." I would begrudgingly go--mad at myself and resenting the person who asked me. Or even worse yet, sometimes I would call at the last minute and cancel.
In some warped way, I thought telling all people "yes" all the time is what I was supposed to do. I was being a "good girl." But, really telling people "yes" made me angry, stressed, resentful, tired, and at times even unreliable.
In America, full time for college classes is considered 12 hours. My second semester, I took 18 hours, worked part-time, and was a member of at least half a dozen groups, and my door was always open to visitors, and I never said "no" to anyone Why? I wanted it all. I wanted to please people and make friends and graduate on time because "I was perfect."
Once, at about midnight, I was in the midst of complaining to my roommate that I was stressed and tired and worn out from school work and always helping people. Knock! Knock! Knock! An sweet international student was at our door, "Amanda, I need help. I can't . . . . by myself. Will you please come?" As, the words, "sure I will" were forming in my mouth, my roommate placed her hand on my shoulder, "she can't tonight, but I can."
Why? Why could I not say no?
I had several conversations with a dear college friend, Melissa, who began to share with me her convictions about how God had not designed us to be so busy and stressed. That we were to live more simply and enjoy him and enjoy who he had created us to be. I saw how much peace she had, how she enjoyed doing what she did choose to do, and how effective her impact was on campus. She might not ever have known it, but she was the one who taught me that it was ok to say "no."
After that semester, I never took more than 12 hours a semester. I choose my classes carefully, and I only graduated one semester late (and that was because I chose to be a exchange student for a year). I carefully selected to be a part of the one group that matched my talents and gifts. And, I began to feel free to tell people no. Life was worth living again. I wasn't so stressed. I enjoyed my courses. I enjoyed helping people again. There was joy in the service--not guilt and resentment and frustration.
I also had a classmate who was legally blind. He often needed help. He was actually one of the first people I told "no." He asked for something that wasn't pressing on a week of a big test. Years later, he told me, "Amanda, would you like to know why I feel comfortable asking you for help?" Of course I would. "Well, you were able to tell me 'no.' If someone, tells me 'no,' I know I can always ask and not ever become a burden to them."
Now as a tent-making missionary who teaches college students there are many, many things that can fill my time. I have choosen to keep things simple. To invest fully in the things God has created me for rather than the things "I could do because I have time for them" or "I could do because someone asked me to do them." That doesn't mean the welcome sign on my door is gone and that I am a hermit. It simply means, I no longer feel guilt when I say "no." It means I choose wisely my commitments and how I spend my time. It means my "yes" is truly a "yes, I'd love to."
Taiwanese people do not understand why I don't easily add a few classes for lots of extra money--I am single, have no kids, why not fill every waking moment with money making opportunities while I can? Well, its simple really, I want to be the most effective Amanda I can in order to glorify my God. If I don't have time to rest, to be with Him, and to refuel, I am not effective and can't enjoy life or Him.
Knowing my limitations is a beautiful thing. Being able to say no--to myself and others--is not easy for this reformed people-pleaser and perfectionist, but the benefits it yields are well worth it for me and for those who ask for my time!