I wrote this almost six years ago. I have no idea, actually, which friend it was. I don’t know what project. I do know the feeling. And, a couple weeks ago, I gave another friend similar counsel. So apparently, we are still struggling.
My friend’s in the middle of a rough year. Death, graduations, health, work challenges. We were sitting in my office talking through life. “Do I have to do that project?” my friend asked. “Because last year, it was frantic.”
It’s a very good project, like most everything my friend takes on. It provides something to people needing help. But last year, the people providing the something didn’t come through. My friend scrambled family members to help. And drove around town finding the something. And felt guilty for not meeting the needs, even though my friend went way overboard in helping.
At the moment, my friend is the one who needs help, and needs rest, and needs margin. So I turned to my whiteboard and wrote three words: For this year.
I said, “That’s what you say to yourself and to others. For this year, we aren’t doing that project.”
(“For this year” can be changed to “For this week, we won’t meet.” It can express positive actions as well: “For this year we will be serving that community.”)
Some of you are not pleasers. You have a well-developed capacity to say “no”. But some of us need conditional “nos”, provisional “nos”. We need to be able to acknowledge that a project is good. That in the future it may come back. But that there are reasons in this year to say, “for this year we won’t.”
It may be that next year, the project will come back. It may be that the need isn’t as large as everyone thought. It may be that other people will figure out how to meet the need. But for my friend, right now, those three words offered great freedom.
My friend left my office a little more relaxed. At least “for this day.”
You have my permission to do this as well.