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Obligation vs Guilt

So I am sitting in a parking garage and waiting for my son to come out of this basketball game where he runs the clock and does the books. And he sent me a text while I was at home saying, Hey, you can come and get him. And then I get here and I'm like, "Hey, I'm at where I dropped you off." And he replies, "Yeah, we've got two more quarters." I'm like, "Dude, your timing stinks."

So that gave me an opportunity to record a quick podcast, a thought that I've had. And I want to talk a little bit about the contrast between obligation and guilt. And if you ever are faced with a situation where you have a choice between taking on an obligation and feeling guilty for saying no, I want to encourage you to choose guilt. Choose the feeling of guilt over taking on an obligation because you're afraid of saying no, because you're afraid of maybe disappointing someone.

As you go into the second half of life, you want to be frugal about what additional commitments that you take on. You want to be frugal about the additional obligations, the additional responsibilities that you take on. And maybe you have created a history, maybe a good history, maybe a solid history of how accommodating you've been or how flexible and how willing you have been to inconvenience yourself for the sake of another. And all of those things are great. They're good character traits and shows how giving a sacrificial you might be. And that's good.

But there very well may have be times that you run into being asked to do something and maybe the knee jerk reaction is to figure out how you can move heaven and earth to accommodate this person or the request. When the simple fact of the matter is the short answer you should give the person is simply no. No and let that be it. No period. That's it.

I know there's often an impulse to give someone a no and then follow that up with a reason why you're giving them a no, but no is a complete sentence. No is a complete sentence in and of itself. So the encouragement might be to simply resist the urge to explain away why you're saying no. The person may ask and "Because I simply don't want to do it" might be the answer that you give.

And that's probably going to come with a little bit of guilt because you've disappointed someone. Someone may have been counting on you or someone may have been assuming that they can come to you and that they could ask you for something that you would be more than willing to step up to the plate and assist them. That's all well and good, but you shouldn't take on an obligation, take on an additional responsibility that's going to be a commitment of your time and your energy and your resources, just for the fear of not wanting to disappoint someone.

One of the things that you should be prepared to do (not look forward to doing - don't seek opportunities to disappoint individuals), but you should not take on things just for fear of making someone unhappy. That's going to happen. A surefire way to fail is to try to seek everyone's approval or to make everyone happy or to please everyone. And that's simply not realistic, nor is that a goal or is it something that we should strive for. Do your best to be as accommodating as much as possible, but at the same time, understand what your limits are. Learn to say no, learn to say yes, let those be complete sentences in and of themselves.

And don't shy away from the fact that the person may be disappointed. And you may feel a little bit guilty about that, but those feelings will pass. The obligation itself, depending upon what it is and how much time and how often it occurs and how frequently it might occur, if it's a recurring thing- that may last a lot longer than your feelings of guilt that you might have over disappointing this person. That may last for a few hours. You'll probably be done with it the next day, but you won't be carrying that burden of the obligation anymore. That will have gone someplace else.

So I just had that thought. Because the reason I'm kind of sitting here waiting on my son is because I said- I didn't even say yes to the obligation. I simply didn't say no to it. I didn't actually investigate what this was. I did not investigate fully what this meant for me in terms of travel, in terms of time, in terms of energy. I didn't do my homework and I'm kicking myself about that. Not giving a no or having not said, "Well, wait a second. What exactly is this thing he's getting involved in? What is the time commitment?"

Because he doesn't drive. He doesn't have a car. He doesn't have a license. So the obligation as his parent is to get him to and from these places. And that requires a time commitment. And it's an obligation now.

So my being here recording this podcast at this point in time, because I'm waiting for him to come out of this building has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on obligation versus guilt. And I'm wrestling with the fact that I now have an obligation, which had I done my homework. I probably would have said "No, we're not going to get him involved in this. He's got to choose some other way to make money."

So if you have a decision to make, and the decision is between obligation and feeling guilty about saying no, choose guilt every time. Those feelings will pass. The burden of that obligation- you may be carrying that a little bit.

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