How Do You Answer Opportunity?

Many years ago, I sat in a group of women who were discussing: “How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty.”

That’s a common struggle, the presenter said, of the woman who nurtures. She always wants to help, so she never says no. If she does, she feels guilty, as if she has to explain herself.

I didn’t agree with the premise. I had two small children, an infant and a preschooler at the time. They kept my plate full, but I usually had room for opportunities that came. I generally knew if they were right for me and didn’t feel guilty if I said no. I thought that answer was obvious to all of us. But my answer about how to do it wasn’t the same as the others.

Time moved forward and my circumstances changed. My three children were in school, and I had cleared my plate of most of the extras. I may have had more room for opportunities, but I took fewer of them because my season and focus had changed. My answer then wasn’t the same as it had been earlier in my life.

This summer, I was confident that I was figuring out this dilemma of how to answer the opportunities as they came to me based on what I’d learned in past seasons.

However, at the same time I still felt like my capabilities were not being realized. I missed the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself. Sometimes that is harder to get individually or in the immediate family surroundings. The very morning I wrote this in my journal, a new opportunity came.

Yet, when the woman invited me to participate, I couldn’t see the connection between my desire I’d just expressed a few hours earlier and the proposal in front of me.

Now, I wonder, “Why not?”

I had heard her message on the answer machine. I had evaluated in my mind according to what I’d known about this activity from the past. I thought of what my opinion had been then, what my decision had been then, and what my attitude had been then.

My mind was a mess, not because I felt guilty for saying no, since I hadn’t even responded to her yet. Rather, my mind was a mix of confusion, not calm about what I pre-decided before I had even allowed my mind to wonder, “What about this opportunity now?”

I was glad to say that something that day eventually turned my line of thinking to ask myself, “Why not?”

Otherwise, the pride I held onto would have blocked my way instead of doors opening on new paths when I answered, “Tell me more, I might be interested.”

1 Comment

  1. Terresa Wellborn
    Sep 12, 2009

    I love this post. I had a similar experience about realizing the huge importance of being open to experiences and new paths.

    One day in early August I read an article from the BYU magazine about charitable giving. I finished the article crying. Not so much from guilt or angst, as from the longing I felt to make a difference, if not monetarily, then in ways of service, of an open heart and a meek spirit.

    That **same night** my bishop asked me to be Primary president. I was open enough to say “Yes.” And as I learn, cry, and grow in this new calling, I’m sure in the long run, I’ll be that much better for taking this new path. (sorry for the story, this ended up being a long comment…)

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