My father passed away unexpectedly several years ago. He got really sick, was hospitalized, then sent home (likely too soon) and ended up back in the hospital less than a week later in a coma that he never came out of.
In some ways, I feel like God gave me some closure during that first hospital visit. Like we had drifted, but then had the opportunity to come back together, even if only for a moment before it was time for my dad to move on.
My dad and I had a strange relationship. I really do think we could have been super close if life had lent itself to that kind of relationship for us. Unfortunately, it didn’t, so I’m left with a few nuggets of wisdom he passed along to me and not a whole lot of knowledge of who my dad was when he wasn’t being my dad.
As you can imagine, the little bits of wisdom I did glean from him over the years are sacred. Those moments are etched into my brain so deeply, that at times I feel like I can actually hear his voice in my head.
I can imagine him, in his Brooklyn accent, saying to me “Heather, you don’t have to tell everyone everything”.
For some context here, both my stepmom and sister were angry at me for a decision I had made. They did not want to hear my justification for the decision and I was incredibly frustrated that my character was being called into question by them when they had no use for hearing all of the facts.
My dad took me for a (VERY RARE) walk that day and said the above statement.
A man of few words, I begged him for clarification.
“What do you mean? Shouldn’t they hear my side of it? Should I just accept that they are angry at me when they have no reason? Should I just deal with my guilt even though I know I have no reason to feel guilty?”
His response was basically, no. I did not owe anyone my justification for my decision. I did not owe anyone an apology for my actions.
On the flip side, they did not owe me the courtesy of listening to my why and why nots. They did not owe me an explanation for their anger.
I’m not going to lie, this royally pissed me off.
I think I get it now though. It’s taken me years to understand. Years of overexplaining my no’s and saying yes when I shouldn’t. Years of feeling guilt even when I KNEW that I was making the right decision. Years of getting myself into predicaments where my overexplanations lead to me changing my mind and ending myself up in the very hole I was trying to stay out of from the beginning.
His advice was sound. It was simple. Simplistic to the point of an eye roll from early 20 something Heather, but in hindsight…filled with the wisdom of someone who had lived a lot more life than I had by that point.
This is hard y’all.
It’s hard to look at someone that needs your help, that wants your time, that is asking you to do something and to just say “I’m sorry, but no”.
It’s hard to make a decision that you know might inconvenience or upset someone else. However, you KNOW it is in the best interest of your family/life/beliefs. Then, to stand by your decision and not allow what others feel to weigh heavily upon you or even worse, guilt you into changing your mind.
I think this is EXTRA hard for women. We feel the need to justify our actions so nobody thinks less of us.
It’s never just no.
“I’m sorry, but my daughter has been sick and my house is a mess and my son has practice and I just can’t.”
“I’m sorry, but we had to do what was best for our daughter even though we knew it would inconvenience/upset you.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with giving the why. What my dad taught me though, is that it is not necessary. Your decision can stand without the why.
The most powerful part of this advice is that it forces you to become really confident with your decisions. I find, I am more prone to overexplaining when I am not really sure I made the best decision.
When my decision is firm and I don’t feel the need to attach a why to it, I know that it is sound and that it is in the best interest of me, my beliefs, my family and my life.
The older I get, the more focused I find I am on my priorities and I find I am able to make decisions with more confidence.
I think parenthood helps with this as well. My priorities tend to line up with what is best for my children. It really becomes that simple. I might compromise/sacrifice myself, but I will NOT compromise/sacrifice them.
If this is not something you are used to, you are going to feel uncomfortable with it at first. I STILL feel uncomfortable with it sometimes. You will feel rude and yes, others might perceive you as rude.
At the end of the day though, it’s about confidence. It’s about making firm decisions and owning them fully. It’s not about being rude or not caring about others, but it IS about realizing that if you have made the best decision that is in line with your priorities, and others cannot accept your decision without knowing the justification behind it…that’s on them and NOT on you.
What my dad was trying to explain to me that day is that if someone can’t respect your decision, either because they don’t want to hear the facts, or they have heard the facts and they still think you are wrong…continuing the conversation is not going to do anybody any good.
Sure, sometimes when you state your case, you’ll convince some people. Maybe in some situations, an explanation is warranted and reasonable. Once you’ve said what you need to say though, that’s really all you can do. They don’t owe you the courtesy of seeing your side and you don’t owe them any more information.
You don’t have to explain. You don’t have to tell everyone everything. Be confident and be bold enough to let your decisions stand on their own without feeling you owe someone a full explanation of your justification.
I still struggle with this. Do you struggle with this? Comment below and tell me what you think!
Warning: You’ll find, once you start saying no more often (without attaching a why), you’ll figure out who in your life is not really used to hearing no. These are the people that want the “why” so they can poke holes in it. These are the people you need to be the most careful with! The more you explain, the more they’ll look for opportunities to change your mind.
If someone has the gall to ask you for your why when you have said NO without explaining why, then you can feel free to have the gall to say “Because, that is my decision, that’s why.”