I recently read a book that asked a question about what you would like in your eulogy. The author specifically focused in on our business. They asked, would you like to be remembered for always taking on tasks? Would you like to be known as a person who was constantly under water with tasks? Would you like your lasting legacy to be that you didn’t have the ability to say no to an opportunity?
I guess the opposite of this type of person is someone who is remembered for never helping anyone. Would you like to be remembered for never stepping up to fill the gap of need? Would you like to leave a legacy of limited effectiveness and little effort outside of your own tiny circle?
It is important in our culture to point out that the opposite ends of an issue are not the only two options. You do not have to choose either of those types of legacies (you shouldn’t choose either of those). The truth is that life is far more complicated and interesting than simply picking one of two options. Life has nuance. Life is in the details. Those details are often subtle. We have to find our place on the pendulum that swings between opposing ends.
The author that raised these eulogy questions was not suggesting that we pick a side. The intent of the questions was to point out that an impactful life is going to require us to choose to say yes to some opportunities AND say no to others.
You may remember the Life cereal commercials. The take away was that Mikey really liked the cereal. The idea was that Mikey didn’t like anything, but he did like this product. The interest and remarkableness of his choice was that it was not his automatic usual response.
No one in your life is surprised when you turn down an opportunity if you always turn down opportunities. No one is impressed or curious when you say yes to something if you say yes to everything.
In the fifth chapter of Matthew Jesus spoke about the importance of what we say to opportunities. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” is what he said in verse 37. We could easily say that Jesus was talking about the importance of honesty and integrity. That is surely an aspect of His message here.
But it shouldn’t be missed that He not only gave us permission but declared an expectation that we would say yes sometimes and also say no other times. We should not be remembered as people who said yes to everything. We should not leave a legacy of saying no to everything either.
The intricate part of life then is really learning to recognize the difference between opportunities to say yes to and those to decline. We need to learn to look at circumstances with future implications. We also need to recognize the limits of our own strength and the time constraints of our own days. There are many things with great future implications that I simply don’t have time to accomplish right now.
Conversely, in his book Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles Hummel said, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” The needs of today often have little impact on our goals for tomorrow. We need to find balance and learn to choose the opportunities that serve our values and goals today as well as allow success in the future.
Finding that balance is a near guarantee that your eulogy will be filled with a legacy that you can be pleased with.
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. They meet in person and online every Sunday. For more information please visit www.newcumberlandnazarene.com