A friend and I have had several conversations about being a high capacity person – or not, and learning to love people who have different capacities than we do. The other day I told her that I’m learning that I’m not as high capacity as I once was – or, at least, as I once believed I was.

In other words, I can’t do it all.

I know. You’re shocked! Right?

It’s true – and I’m truly learning what this means for me. Having a baby kind of forced my hand, but it’s something that’s been creeping up on me over the past several years of saying yes to everything.

Everything I needed to do.
Everything I wanted to do.
Everything I thought I should do.
Everything I felt others thought I should do.

I know that’s not healthy, it’s not smart, it’s not a strategy for success in any area of my life. I do! Look – I’ve written about it here and here. So obviously this struggle isn’t new to me. It’s just new for me to actually do something about it.

I’m taking baby steps in the direction of what Lysa TerKeurst calls My Best Yes – saying no to the good things so I can save my yes for the great things. The trick, of course, is figuring out what’s great and what’s just good. And then, the other trick is prying my fingers off of the good things, the things that will be fun and will help people and will make me happy and will look good on a resume (or Facebook status).

But if I don’t release my grip on the good, I’ll never be able to reach for the great that God has placed in front of me.

This realization pretty much always sends me straight to Whiny Baby Mode. “But I WANT to!” “But it won’t take THAT long!” “But it would be FUN!” I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up enough to avoid this stage. But my prayer is that I’ll stay here for less time.

I think it’s possible. This summer I said no to a handful of good things so I could focus on great things, namely family and writing. Two of those good things, though? They were at my church. They would have helped people. They were things I enjoyed and cared about and would have been good at. And saying no to them sent me straight to the church version of Whiny Baby Mode:

“But it’s for a good cause!”
“But I could HELP people!”
“But they NEED ME!”
“But God said to volunteer at church! {That’s in the Bible, right?}”

The Best Yes superhero cape

Thankfully, my overwhelming GREAT life was full enough at the time that I was able to grit my teeth, say no and move on.

Until last week, that is. I’d met my friend for lunch, and we were having that high capacity vs. low capacity conversation again, and I referred to one of those good things she’d asked me to do. That I’d turned down in favor of great things.

This is a friend who is honest with me and lets me be honest with her. So I didn’t flinch when she looked at me and said, “Yeah, that made me sad, because you said it was something you cared about but didn’t have time for – so I wondered what you were saying yes to that maybe you shouldn’t.”

Immediately I questioned that months-old decision. Had I turned down the great thing? Had I chosen wrong?

I’m confident that the answer to both of those questions is NO. I did the right thing this summer when I said no. But this conversation made me realize a couple things:

  1. Saying no when I need to might let other people down. As long as I know I’m doing what God’s calling me to do, what’s best for my family and for me, I have to learn to be okay with that.
  2. I’ve created the bad habit of over-apologizing in a way that makes it seem like I am either a) unsure of my decision or b) interested in or called to every single opportunity, whether I am or not.

When I told my friend I couldn’t help her, I was afraid of disappointing her. So I went overboard, as it turns out, making sure she knew how much I valued the project and how disappointed I was to “have to” say no. See, that way, she wouldn’t be mad at me, because I didn’t WANT to say no! And I loved her project. I did! It’s super important! But I “have to” say no…as if someone else was making that choice.

I didn’t lie to my friend. I do think the project she asked me to help with is super important. It helps kids in our community, and I think it’s amazing. And I was sad not to help. BUT. When I weighed that project against the other things I know undoubtedly that God has called me to do right now…I knew my answer this time was no.

That was my choice. But because I was so afraid, I didn’t own that choice and, instead of preventing disappointment, I just created confusion. After all, if I was so sad, why was I saying no?

See what I did?

Have you ever done that? (Hoping I’m not alone in this brand of crazy…)


Learning to say no when I should and yes when I should is a process. It’s not a matter of reading one article or having one conversation and being done with it. And I suspect – like all annoying “growth opportunities” – it will change just as seasons of life change. So that’s something to look forward to.

I’m grateful to know I’m not alone in this journey – both in learning to say no, to draw boundaries, to make hard choices and in not getting it right the first time, questioning the choices I make, struggling to figure this thing out. So while reading one article or blog post or book won’t let me snap my fingers and make this easy, finding women who write about their own struggles and encourage me through this process is huge.

the best yes book

Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book is one of those resources I’m loving right now. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands is all about everything I just shared. Except with more wisdom and lots of examples and encouragement that are keeping me mindful of this struggle and determined to keep plodding along toward My Best Yes. The book helps readers (including me):

  • Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
  • Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
  • Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your Best Yes today.

At TheBestYes.com, you can read the first chapter of Lysa’s book for free. You can also learn about the Bible study she’s written to accompany the book (as well as watch a free session of the DVD curriculum and download a free chapter from the study guide).

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour. To learn more, click here.

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