Back to Basics

Have you ever looked at one of your kids and thought, “Damn, you’re pretty smart!”  That happened to me just this past week. My oldest, Serena, was giving some life advice to a friend, and distilled it down to three points:

  1. Learn to tell people, “no”

  2. Ask for favors

  3. Important stuff should be done face-to-face.

Yeah, that’s pretty good!  I thought it was so good, that I wanted to take her three-point life-advice, and expound.

Learn to tell people, “No”:  This is not about being rude to the other.  This is about capacity.  This is about ability.  This is about knowing yourself.  We all hate telling the other person “no.”  I get it.  But if you are married or a parent, you have a long history of it.  We all know how to do it.  But it seems it is easier to keep saying “yes” until we get worn out and then we project our exhaustion on the person asking. Result: We are the victim and they are to blame for exhausting us, and we now have an excuse to bail.  100% of this stress or relational heartache could be avoided with two simple letters - N O.  Let me add, if the person you are telling “No” to, can’t handle it, they weren’t really your friend in the first place and it is better to know that now.  But like generosity is a two-way-street, the ability to give AND receive without keeping score, so it is with “No.”  If you are in a relationship with someone and they can’t say the simple word, “no” and find it easier to bail, you should question the friendship...you should move on.  The freedom to say and receive "no" is about maturity and respect.   

  • Example #1: 

  • Friend: “He Matthew, I’ve really been going through a lot, and emotionally I feel really down, is there any way I could sit down with you tomorrow and get some pastoral advice.”

  • Matthew: “He friend, I am over extended right now, and the only free time I have needs to be given to pure rest.  So, no, I can’t right now.  I will be praying for you, and I would like to look into my calendar and see if we can get an appointment set, and make it happen.”

  • Example #2: 

    • Matthew, “Friend, I really need some help hanging these pallet boards on my wall to cover up the cracks.”

    • Friend, “Matthew, I just can’t right now.  I’m pretty busy, but if you want to wait, I think I’ll have a couple hours next month to help you hang them, or you can borrow one of my tools.”

See how easy that was.  We both told each other “no.”  Wait for it….and we both lived.  As did our friendship (they actually got stronger).  To say “no” and have the ability to receive a “no” simply says something about our maturity and relational depth.  If you can’t say “no” and be nice about it, you will burn yourself out along with everyone else around you.  Say “no” sometimes and move on, it is the mature thing to do. 

Ask for Favors: This is the flip side to the “no” piece.  In and of myself I am not a surplus of all the things I need in life.  Nor was I meant to be.  This lack in being and abilities can and should lead to healthy interdependent relationships.  

If you don’t need favors in life, then you aren’t trying to live to your fullest.  If you can’t give favors in life, then you are self-centered and only see through your own paradigm.  Many of the things I want to do in life are only achievable by the favors other do for me.  We’ve all heard it said before, if we can accomplish our goals on our own (without asking for help), then our goals aren’t big enough. 

Receiving favors allows me to (1) remain humble, and constantly remember, my accomplishments are not mine, they are ours, and that is a beautiful shared-place to be (2) trust others - here’s the deal: for the most part, people are good.  I know we are bombarded on a daily basis with a reminder of the darkness of humanity, but if we just slow down, and look around, we will realize people for the most part are worth trusting.   

When we see everyone else’s gift and ability as important, and needed in this world, even if it can’t be monetized or quantified on the same economic spectrum as ours, we can live in amazing, give and take, relationships without keeping score and belittling the contribution of others even if it is different than ours.   That makes for a full life!

The ability to ask for favors is a marker of maturity, it says, I recognize I need others and that I am not the center of the universe.  Much of life is in knowing who you are, but just as important, is knowing who you are not, and having the humility to ask for favors in light of that.

Important Stuff should be done Face-to-Face: This one is about mutual respect for the humanity in each of us.  In our world of texts and social media, we have found a way to escape the cost, accountability, and growth that comes with being human. We are adults (at least most people who read my blog are). If we have something to say to people, out of our respect for them and our desire to grow, we should have the courage to speak face-to-face with each other.  If I text something important to you, that effects our relationship, you should take it as an insult, and I shouldn’t have to explain why. Don’t get me wrong - text and email have helped a lot - efficiency, group communication on small things, communicating instructions; but they have also devalued our humanity in other areas.  If you aren’t comfortable confronting grown-up situations face-to-face, for whatever reason, I get that - I don’t love confrontation. However, being uncomfortable with something doesn’t abdicate us from the responsibility to and of it.  To confront face-to-face, gives the other person the respect they deserve, it forces me to think and grow, because now I have to handle it like an adult, and I have to be responsible for it and the relationship at hand.  When the hard things about relationships can be handled over text or email, then we have gotten to an interpersonal dark place

A fourth rule I would add is, "Don't panic", but that's for another post!