The other day I was talking to my boss, Kim, about how busy I was and how much sleep I was not getting. She is always a good listener, so she listened for a while. Then she sprang on me a piece of advice that I wish I’d heard articulated a long time ago:
“Tori, it’s good to learn to say ‘no’ to some things...Saying ‘no’ to something is saying ‘yes’ to something else.” Yes to sleep, yes to good grades, yes to more time in personal devotions.
College students are often told to take advantage of all the opportunities they have: take all the classes you can, travel when you can, be a part of clubs when you can, go to social events when you can, play sports if you can. Anything we can do becomes what we should do.
We hear the stories of so many different people in their college days that we eventually feel like we must experience everything that everyone has told us. Soon we can become committed to too many things, unable to do any of them well.
Even this semester I have felt myself going in and out of extreme business. Some weeks, besides my normal classes and schoolwork, I played intramurals, I worked at the 55th coffee shop, I went on walks, I planned a wing event, I volunteered at events, and I went out with friends on the weekend. On weeks like these, every time I committed to something new, I calculated in my head how much less sleep I would be getting later that week.
By saying “yes” to new things, I was saying “no” to other, more important things.
For instance, sometimes I would quickly eat dinner alone in my room, rather than with people at the Commons. Or I would smile and wave at my residents instead of stopping to talk to them. Or I would barely eke out enough words for a paper. Most significantly, I would barely take time to read a chapter in my Bible and say a little prayer.
As I was writing this blog post, I got a letter from my sister, and, since this time I’m providing the mistakes and other people are providing the wisdom, I tell you what she said:
“It is so cool that when we put God first, second things are increased (adapted from C.S. Lewis, as you may know). It is finally then that we can get everything done, love people well, and enjoy the hard work.”
What I, and we, need to learn, is to take the extremes of being involved and having free time and intermingle them: to be involved, but not so much that each involvement is a burden. To have enough time alone that when we are with people we can really be with them. To spend enough time having fun that we can concentrate on our classes. To dwell on the love of our Father so that we can truly love others.
As my pastor would say, we need to be so heavenly minded that we are of so much earthly good.
What we need to learn is that saying “no” to something is saying “yes” to something else.