“No” Has Consequences


It’s been a wonderful summer—our family’s trip to Iona, Scotland was over-the-moon wonderful—but it’s good to be back into a routine. I put my lastborn child on the school bus this morning. I won’t lie, there were a couple of happy mommy tears as he waved from the second seat and rumbled away.

I wrote earlier in the summer about creating a “to-don’t” list, and have been working on identifying things that I can let go of, either by delegating or just leaving them undone. The idea is to free up time and mental space for those things that are more important.

Our family has a big to-don’t on tap this fall… we’re giving up Girl Scouts.

This one hurts. I am a big believer in scouting. I was a Girl Scout. My mother was my Girl Scout leader, and I was a co-leader for Caroline’s troop last year. Margaret has been patiently waiting for her turn to join. Instead, we will be a Scout-free household for the next year, perhaps longer. I won’t bore you with the reasons, nor with the list of what’s on our plates instead. Suffice to say, this is the right thing for us right now.

On one level it feels great: No meetings. No cookies. No weekends jammed with field trips and badge work.

But it’s also agonizing. No rocketry or horseback riding. No camping. No intentional leadership development of our girls. Yes, they could potentially get that kind of experience in other ways. But how? And what are the consequences if they don’t?

Time management experts (and Sabbath practitioners) sometimes make saying “No” sound simple, as if all that stands between you and a simpler life is to let the unimportant stuff go. But the values of the Girl Scouts are important.

When we say No, we are trusting a bigger Yes.

But that’s easier said than done.

photo credit: cheerfulmonk via photopin cc

12 thoughts on ““No” Has Consequences

  1. Susan

    I’m reading this just after getting an email about losing another girl from our already small troop. I’m sad, but I get it. You can’t do everything, and it sounds like your troop was super-active. We haven’t done a single thing outside of meeting time yet.

    Hope this space in your life is filled with good things.

  2. Carl Utley

    MaryAnn, this is my first time to come across the phrase “to-don’t list.” Bless you, bless you, bless you for this gem. I’m starting mine today. And congratulations for saying “no” to an easily identified good in order to lead a more sensible, balanced and what promises to be a better life. The pain of letting go will be worth the witness that we don’t need to have/do/be “it all.” Carl

  3. Sarah

    Difficult choices abound, ain’t that the truth. God’s peace to you and your family as your NO makes room for some yet-to-be-known YESSES. And yes, I am a woman who was very much shaped by GS (and my Red Cross safety/water safety training) all the way thru senior year of HS – yes, I was one of the girls who attended the Council’s Scout graduation service, which happened to be held at the church where my family worshipped.

  4. Bob Braxton

    for our offspring, Cub Scouts and then that was it (piano lessons started in earnest). Then, after ninth grade there was a total conflict (schedule) between orchestra (cello) and math competitions – so it became the math for the next three high school years (for offspring). Every “no” is a bigger yes; and I do not wish for you – fill up that space – the reason (mine, anyway) for opening up the space is – the space (surprise) – not to fill it with something else. The New Testament has a story about cleaning a demon out of a possessed house – then, the rest of that story.

  5. Jeanny House

    I love this: “When we say No, we are trusting a bigger Yes.”

    One of the things I work on with my coaching clients is that living in choice, while empowering and liberating, is also sometimes difficult and a little heartbreaking. Realizing that every time we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to other things and that when we say “no”, we are also saying “yes”to something else is huge part of what empowers us to choose the lives we want to live.

    I’m inspired by your family’s thoughtful choice-making and commitment to living your values.

  6. Jan

    “No” definitely has long term consequences.

    I remember hearing that – unless our then-8 yr old daughter played travel soccer – she would never get to play high school soccer one day. Actually that depends on the high school. (In our high school, if you had a pulse, you could play a varsity sport.) But in big competitive sports high schools, this was true. One of the Big Pressures parents have in our culture is feeling like a decision made for a second grader (not sending her to the Science Focus School) means that she will never get to be a scientist even though that is what she says she wants to be at the moment. We have to practice breathing and knowing that fresh opportunities will come one day – to learn how to identify leaves, tie knots, and sell cookies.

  7. Bob Braxton

    Will Campbell is a Yale PhD ? or is it M. Div. and graduate of Wake Forest, died recently, the pattern and inspiration for Doug Marlette’s character
    Will B. Dunn
    so one of the consequences of “No” would be to modify
    the “Lord’s Prayer” to

    Thy Won’t be done – in earth as it is in heaven
    and perhaps the partner for that cartoon character
    call her / him / other
    the better half “Won’t B. Dunn”


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