We can be the caring, savvy, thoughtful, patient person in the lives of those around us, but only up until we hit *that* wall. Then it’s all teeth, claws and craziness. I’ll own that.
In owning this reality, we have the opportunity to do something finer. Not to force ourselves to “behave” when we just don’t have it in us, but rather, to learn to listen to our own limits and draw protective lines in response. We often feel guilty when we say “no” or “not now” to our kids, our bosses, our parents, our friends, our colleagues. In truth, however, that honest “no” or “not now” is a loving, caring gift to those around us.
In this season of gift-giving, consider giving this particularly weird, possibly barbed-wire wrapped gift: When you can’t give of your time, resources, attention without resentment? SAY NO. In the inimitable words of Anne Lamott, “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” Believe it or not, this doesn’t make you a stingy shrew. It frees you up inside to heal, restore, and take care of yourself so that when are asked to give again, you can likely do so with your whole heart and your best effort.
In this holiday season, I encourage you to stop putting yourself last. Re-imagine each situation, flushing your preconceived notions about what you “should” do and what you “have to” do. Make your decisions based on what you do and don’t want in your life. Sometimes that will mean stretching to do something you’d rather not do, but not because you are compelled by the guilt or expectations of others, but rather, because the cost is worth he benefit for you. If the cost is not worth the benefit, don’t do it!
I can hear you gasping in panic now – “But people will think I’m mean!” “But people won’t like me!” But people will yell at me!” “But people will call me selfish!” Here’s a freeing concept: Those people aren’t loving you in that moment and don’t deserve a vote as a result.
When we human folk don’t get what we want, we often unconsciously resort to manipulation. If people are used to you doing a certain thing or giving in a certain way and you suddenly don’t, it’s like cold water on a toddler. They don’t know what to do! They sometimes behave very badly in response, calling you names, throwing a tantrum, alienating you. We human folk just don’t like it when things and people change on us. Ironically though, things and people change constantly! If we are to be truly caring and loving toward the people around us, we can’t afford to enable their bad behavior. Giving in to a manipulation to try and force you to do something that is not your best choice, is enabling bad behavior. Don’t do that. It doesn’t serve either you or the other person in the end.
You cannot gauge the appropriateness of your response on some else’s loaded reaction to that response. You have to trust yourself and your own sense of how you need to live your life. After all, you are the only person living your life and you will be the only person living your consequences. Choose well. Choose what brings energy, vitality, meaning and purpose. That may or may not be what you’ve always done.
As they say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” Are you ready for a healthy change and stronger, more meaningful relationships? Learn to guiltlessly say “no” when that is your best choice.
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“Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant.” ~ Maya Angelou