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Just Say 'No' So Others Can Say 'Yes'

Just Say 'No' So Others Can Say 'Yes'

It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important
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Steve Jobs once said, "It's only by saying 'no' that you can concentrate on the things that are really important." Jobs talked about innovation and leadership being tied to knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no." This line of thinking is both freeing and intimidating, because we are given permission to say "no" some of the time, but also a great responsibility for discernment in knowing when to embrace an opportunity or request, and when to turn it down.

As Christians, let's take it a step further. God is actively working in our lives. He has created each of us uniquely, and has designed us to do his work in our own special way in the world. Thoughtfully considering where we say yes and choose to commit our limited time is of vital importance. Consider what you value and where your priorities lie. The demands of life ebb and flow; there will be seasons of greater commitment than others. Be aware of where you are and what you need, what your family needs and what God is putting on your heart.

Let's delve even deeper as Christ followers, and consider another layer of what it means to be a "yes man" (or woman). We know the draining affect it can have on our personal lives to say yes to every request before us. Beyond the personal impact, what is the impact on others if we never turn down an opportunity? Who else could serve and grow, given the opportunity to step into a new role, if we weren't so quick to fill the need? When we say yes to every opportunity, we may deny someone else the chance to hear God calling, and to say "yes" themselves.

We've all heard of the proverbial glass ceiling that exists in some organizations for women rising in leadership. I heard an interesting view on this in a recent discussion that suggested perhaps as women we may be part of the problem. If we plant ourselves so firmly in a leadership or volunteer role and never make way for someone else to fill our shoes, we may actually be creating a barrier for other women gifted to lead and serve. Sure, we may be very good in a particular role or opportunity, but what about the women coming along behind us? Is it possible that by saying no to an opportunity that we could be making way for someone else to discover their talents and abilities through their yes?

I've seen this play out in my own life several times. I love opportunities that allow me to solve problems and try new ideas, but I've learned that there are many wonderful women around me that get charged up by those same opportunities. Sometimes God is not calling me to assert myself into the situation, but rather to encourage someone else to do so. I remember sitting in a gathering at my church, where a pastor was casting vision and giving folks the opportunity to serve in various capacities. One of the opportunities sounded so fun to me, but then I remembered I already had several volunteer commitments in the church. I thought about my friend sitting next to me, who had great people skills and was so talented in many ways. I poked her with my elbow and said, "That volunteer role he just mentioned sounded perfect for you. I've seen you in action and you are so organized and inspiring. Why don't you volunteer?" She looked surprised, thought about it for a minute, and then did just that. Sometimes what God is calling us to do is not take up a job, but to be a catalyst for someone who could do it even better and just needs a little encouragement.

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Sherry Surratt

Sherry Surratt is the CEO and President of MOPS International. Follow her on Twitter @SherrySurratt.

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