Monday, February 27, 2012

The Lie We All Tell

“I don’t have time.” This might be the most common reason given for why we say “no” to invitations, tasks, favors, etc. At the risk of angering everyone who reads this, I’m proclaiming that this excuse is a complete lie and should be taken out of our vocabulary. And this is why.

Think back to a time when you have said this. Here is an example from my life. Recently, my husband asked me to call Ohio Gas to find out how much we owe since we couldn’t find the bill. “I don’t have time,” I explained.  That was a lie. This is what I should have said, “I spend most of my day, completely scatterbrained, hoping to keep myself and the kids alive and mostly well. Sometimes I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth that morning. Then when naptime comes and I have 90 minutes to actually do things like pay the bills or make phone calls, I notice that Hoarders is on the tv and I would much rather sit on the couch, stare blankly at the nightmarish scenes on the screen, and let my mind go completely numb.”

At some point in my life, here are some of the things I have said “I don’t have time” to do:

·         Playing with my children

·         Reading my bible

·         Working out

·         Eating Healthy or making dinner for my family

·         Praying

·         Spending time with my husband

·         Calling friends and family

·         Cleaning the house

·         Going to church

·         Joining a small group

·         Running Errands

·         Managing my household

·         Writing encouraging notes or thank you notes

·         Partaking in ministry

·         Spending time with my friends and family

 It is not a matter of free time during the day. One could argue that we all have 24 hours of free time every day. We choose what our priorities are and what activities are worthy enough to drink up a portion of that time. Instead, “I don’t have time” should be translated “That is not a priority for me.” My choice to vapidly watch Hoarders during the hour I should be most productive during my day obliterates that excuse for me.  So does my choice to write a blog post, check facebook 10 times a day (okay, 100 times a day), read the latest on the Kardashians, or exercise more than the 30 minutes/5 times a week recommendation from the CDC.  As long as I am able to act on my own free will, I am not able to honestly say, “I don’t have time.”

 So why do we say it?

1. Because the truth hurts. It always stings when you find out that you are not a priority in someone’s life, even if it is understandable.  It makes complete sense to me when my friends turn me down for a girls’ night so they can go on a date with their husband. It still stings, although not as much as if their reason was to…I don’t know…watch Hoarders.  We don't like to hurt people. We don't like to let them down. We don't like them to think poorly of us.

It also hurts us because it brings us awareness of our selfishness, our inability to meet the needs of others, or our ability to hurt others so easily.  While the bible tells us not to condemn ourselves when we sin because Christ’s blood has washed us clean (Romans 8:1-2), there are times when the Holy Spirit convicts us (John16:7-11), calls for repentance (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 1:23), and implores us to change our priorities (Deuteronomy 6;Matthew 22:35-40) . Have you ever not called someone back simply because you don’t LIKE talking to them? Have you ever dodged someone’s presence because you don’t ENJOY being with them. Even without conviction from the Holy Spirit, you have to be pretty hard-hearted to not feel bad. Why else would we say it?

2. Because it is easier. It is easier than having a hard conversation with someone about why we don’t want to do whatever they ask. The real reason might reveal something in us that we don’t want to share. 

·         Will you help organize the fundraiser? Because I feel so overwhelmed with life right now that if I add one more thing I’m going to start crying uncontrollably. I don’t have time.

·         Do you want to go get lunch? I don’t want to go get lunch because I’m on the first week of  a diet and eating out always makes me fall off the wagon. I don’t have time.

·         Do you want to come over for a playdate? No, because every time I walk in your house I’m so overwhelmed with jealousy for how perfect your life seems. I don’t have time.

·         Honey, could you stop by the drycleaner and pick up my suit? No, because I’m really angry over that thing you said yesterday so I don’t want to do anything nice for you. I don’t have time.

·         Mommy, will you build me a train track? No because every time I build one, you destroy it five minutes later and then you throw the tracks all over the basement. I don’t have time.

As Christians, we know that life is fleeting ( Psalm 39:4-5) and we are called to make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). The result of choosing our priorities poorly can be negative. I’ve lost friends because I didn’t intentionally carve out time for them. My marriage has suffered when I didn’t make date nights and important conversations a priority with my husband.  My house, my body, and my mind have suffered from laziness. 

On the other hand, the wise ways I’ve used my time has reaped rewards.  My heart has been blessed by my participation with the ministry of Young Life. My children will grow up with memories of a Mommy who can easily turn into a tiger, witch, ghost, or princess in a castle with dirty grout and dog snot on the windows. They will grow up, knowing about Jesus because church is a priority. They will have memories of their grandparents because we take the time to drive south to visit them. The time I have put into prayer and bible study has given me a heart that adores, worships, and communes with the God that so many others see as distant and harsh (Jeremiah 29:13).

I have time. I just don’t always have the desire.

So I’m curious. When I am tempted to answer “I don’t have time” to some invitation, what do you think is best?

·         To continue with the lie to save time, energy, and feelings?

·         To be brutally honest and really tell people what’s on your mind? Is honesty really like a kiss on the lips (Proverbs24:26)?

·         To do what is asked of you if you are unable or unwilling to give the real explanation of why you do not want to?


  1. Thank you for this straight-forward, and to-the-point post.

    1. Trust me that no one needed to hear this more than I!

  2. Janine...great post and reminder. And I'm glad you came by to link up at WJIM. Have a blessed evening.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I was very glad to find your site! I will be visiting very often!

  3. Love this. Thank you thank you thank you.

    I think the answer is that we can be honest... but that doesn't mean blurting everything out. It's ok to say no sometimes, and not feel pressured to give a reason behind the "no".

    1. Shoot...I'm good at blurting everything out :) Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

  4. Very very nice Janine. I think that you can be softly honest about "I don't have time" when you need to say no. I think I'll think on what you've written while I go shower. I wish I had a great answer to the question you've posed...but I am not any more wise than you! We're all learning together and growing together!

    1. I love your term "softly honest." I'm rarely "softly honest" and I absolutely need to learn how to be that!

  5. I found your blog at WLW, this is a great post. Thank you for convicting me with the truth but making the blow A little softer with humor:) I really needed to hear this today!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I look forward to looking around your site!

  6. I think it's ok to say no or I'm not able to do that right now without giving a full explanation. My mom always told me NO is a complete sentence. It may not be one I like to say or others like to hear, but sometimes NO is better than explaining why I can't right now.

    1. I like your mom's line and I think I will use it next time with my boys!! I agree that its okay to say no to things or say I'm not able to do that. I would rather hear that than someone say they don't have time. My point is that the "I don't have time" excuse rolls too easily off our tongue. Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to think on my post and comment!

  7. This is a great post, and my initial thought when I read your questions at the end was that I have to be honest with myself first. WHY am I saying, "I don't have time." - what is taking up my time and what is my desire? Thanks for making me think more reply about these things.

  8. Good thoughts here. I am definitely guilty of saying I don't have time, when the truth is I would rather do something else that I enjoy.

  9. Wonderful post! The Christian way of saying, "I don't have time" is usually, "I need to pray about it"...haha! Needing to pray is definitely valid, but sometimes I think people use it as an excuse to weigh their options.

  10. I loved this post. I am shy so I'm always fighting my impulse to decline invitations for bad reasons (I won't know anyone there, I won't feel comfortable, I don't have anything in common, etc.). I think that when you have a legitimate excuse it's always okay to say so even if you think the excuse sounds lame (I need to spend more time with my family, I've got to recharge before I take on anything new, I can't see you on Monday but maybe the following week?) just try to do it "softly honest" as one poster said. If the excuse isn't legit (keep in mind, rest is a legitimate reason) then I think you're third option is the right thing to do. I might offer a fourth option: buy some time. Sometimes I can't make that decision on the spot because I truly need to weight options and prioritize. I think it's okay to just say, I need to think about it or let me get back to you.

    Thanks for brining up the topic. Good food for thought!

  11. Janine, again, thank you for sharing at WJIM's Monday's Musings. Today I am sharing your post once more at my blog. This is a great post. Come and share again this Monday. Have a fabulous weekend.

  12. Hi,
    Love the post. Really good points. I think being overly honest can be pretty hurtful, but what you're really onto here is when we aren't honest with ourselves. I tell myself "I just don't have time," and forget that really what I'm doing is setting priorities. It robs me of the chance to pray over my priorities, discuss them openly with my family, and change them if they need to be changed. Thanks for the post -- it really inspired a lot of thought!



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