It didn’t take a book or a therapist or even a lot of soul searching to figure out that one of the first things I needed to tackle as I began digging my way out of depression was my inability to say no.
Somewhere along the way I had been taught that it was my job as a good wife, mother, employee, volunteer, pastor’s wife, sister, friend, and Christian to “be there” for people when they needed help. So, when people asked, I said yes.
Rarely did I stop to think about whether it was something I wanted to do. And it most certainly never crossed my mind that maybe it was something I shouldn’t do. If I had the ability to do it, and they were standing there telling me they needed me to do it, then I should do it.
As I struggled with when to say yes and when to say no, I ran across a statement that said taking care of people who need to be taken care of is good. Taking care of people who don’t need to be taken care of is bad. While that sounded reasonable, I couldn’t always tell the difference between someone who truly needed help and someone who just wanted help. The other thing was, if they really did need help, how was I to know if I was the one who was suppose to do the helping?
My other dilemma was that rather than just coming out and saying, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t take on anything else right now, so my answer is no,” I’d hem and haw my way around the issue. I’d tell them that I was busy, or tired, or that I really didn’t think it was a good fit, or that while I wished I could, I had company coming etc., etc., etc. The problem was that they often had a come back for my reason for not doing what they’d asked me to do. And so I caved. Over and over and over again I found myself saying “yes” when everything inside of me was yelling “ no.”
Finally, I had someone who told me that I needed to do two things when I was asked to lend a hand. One was to pray and see if it was indeed something the Lord wanted me to do. The second was to ask myself if it was something I could do with a willing and cheerful heart.
There was the value shift. I no longer had to say yes to everything in order to be a “good” person or to be loved. I got to trust my heart and God’s leading. So, this year as I rewire my brain I am working at short circuiting the automatic “yes” and grabbing hold of the “Can I get back to you on that?” wire.
Here are some other things I’m trying to get into my brain. Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. That saying no to the good may be necessary in order to be available for the best. And, from Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P Freeman, “Need meeting isn’t always love.”
My next step on my journey out of depression was to work on learning that I am not responsible for helping and saving the entire world. But that’s next week’s blog. Hope to see you then.