Column: Saying “no” to the good things and “yes” to the best

Yes. We say “yes” a lot.  Yes, I can work tomorrow. Yes, I’ll do that project. Yes, let’s do dinner. Yes, we can study together. Yes, I’ll take you to the doctor. Yes, we’re OK. Relationships require yeses, and success requires yeses. But what if we learned to say “no” to the good so that we could say “yes” to the best?

Ironically, one of a baby’s first words is “no,” and I was no exception until I made a remarkable discovery: “yes” made people happy. “Yes” filled time and created opportunities and established relationships. “Yes” is exciting and beautiful, and we’re addicted to it. We’ve created a society that equates busyness with success, and we no longer know how to say “no” to the unimportant to make time for the crucial.

In his book Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung writes, “Busyness must start with the one sin that begets so many of our other sins: pride.” How often do we say “yes” to someone or something simply because we’ve convinced ourselves that they, or even God, need us to get the job done and that it can’t get done without us? How often do we volunteer because we are sure we will do a better job than anyone else?

For me, the answer is simple. Every day. I have a confession to make: I’m too busy. I’ve always been too busy. I volunteer for more than I can handle. And I know I’m not alone.

I can see you all—grabbing a bagel in the 10 minutes you have to eat between the time class gets out and society officer meeting starts. Skipping class to finish a paper you should have written but couldn’t because you had to lead a study group while simultaneously counseling a friend after a breakup.

But the answer to our busyness is not in saying “no.” The answer lies in saying “yes” to what’s important. While your “yes” list will look different from my “yes” list, we probably all overlap in a few areas.

For example, say yes to spending quality time with friends. Say yes to calling your parents. Say yes to doing your homework. And, most important, say yes to spending time in God’s Word and on your knees in prayer.

Busyness replaces the vibrant colors of life with fast-paced black and white until we no longer know what we’re missing. If you say “yes” to the good rather than the best, you risk living your life always thinking about what’s next, and never reaching your full potential in any one area.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan summed it up this way: “Life can be great, but not when you can’t see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life.”