By Ryan Weber
“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6
Doesn’t it feel like the Christmas season is defined by either of these statements in this verse? It’s either the season of life and peace (the season that we all feel when we get together for Thanksgiving and set up our Christmas decorations, with Bing Crosby singing I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas), or the season of flat out death (as in I’m dropping every penny I have on a gift that my kids will probably use for four months and I’m going to party after party with people I don’t know).
How do we go about avoiding the rat race and madness that is the Christmas season and maintain the nostalgic, snowy, mistletoe Christmas that we all long for?
The answer lies in one of the most difficult words in the English language to say: NO.
Boundaries are a huge thing for me. I’m one of those people who have an impossible time saying no to people because I don’t like disappointing anyone. I’m too much of a people pleaser to consistently say no to someone asking me to do something. So I end up saying yes to a lot of things that I don’t want to do.
The problem is when we continue to say yes to things like this, we are also saying no to things that we may want to say yes to but now can’t. Make sense? When I say yes to going to my ninth Christmas party of the season, I may also be saying no to spending precious time with my wife or my family, or maybe even alone time (what’s that?).
Going into this Christmas season, I want to encourage you with a couple of practical steps in order to de-clutter our Christmas calendars (and I want to give credit to Jon Acuff for these steps. If you have a hard time with margin, check him out):
1. Prepare for yes situations.
Give yourself margin to say no to the priorities that you set for yourself. Write down the things that you want to prioritize this Christmas and don’t feel guilty for saying no to other things. The path to peace this Christmas is to know what you want to make of it and then actually have the guts to stick to it.
2. Check your motivations.
If we’re honest, sometimes we say yes for the wrong reasons. Why do you keep saying yes to the wrong things? Check your motivations and you may find it will be easier to provide a reason to say no.
3. Get a no partner.
Don’t try to say no alone. Get someone who can help you do that. We all have a friend who is a master of no. They don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings or disappointing someone if no is what they should say to a request. Find a master of no and tell them that you, like me, are a wimp when it comes to the word no.
4. Accept the consequences.
If someone gets mad that you said no to them, that’s not a sign you shouldn’t have said it. It’s actually a huge validation that no was the best thing to say. Don’t let the disappointment of someone else change your no into a yes. Anger is an awful reason to change your word.
5. Carry a yes list.
The reason you have a hard time saying no is that often, you lose sight of what you’ve already said yes to. Keep a “yes list,” a simple list of commitments you’ve already made. Keep the list where you can easily access it and refer to it when you get asked to do something and you want to say no.
We want to pursue peace this Christmas, so pursue peace. You do have control over your calendar, just be intentional about the time that you spend and the commitments you make to keep your Christmas a peaceful one.