Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Victoria & I recently climbed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – the first of our list of Great New Zealand walks that we intend to do over the next few years. I asked the owner of the lodge we were staying at what were some of the more memorable climbers he had had stay there. And the stories started to tumble out.  At one point he used a saying I often use. He was talking about how people would come completely unprepared (E.g. the young woman who appeared in the morning ready for the climb in her high heels clutching her handbag… “Umm, there are no shops on the mountain. And high heels aren’t really the right shoes to wear…”). He said sometimes people presented as perfectly capable, but they really shouldn’t do it. “Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

One of the tragedies of our culture is overcommitted people rushing from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, meeting to meeting, person to person, and not actually enjoying the incredible gift of being alive and present to the moment.

“Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should” is such an important saying to remember, perhaps even more so at the beginning of a new year. The temptation is always to take on a few too many things because we are fresh from holiday, and itching to get in to the year. But a very helpful piece of advice I received a long time ago becomes really important at this stage. “If you are going to add something new to your life, what are you going to take out to create the space?” Our “stop doing” list is just as important as our “to do” list. (And while I’m mentioning lists, our “have done well” list is also pretty important to celebrate as well.) We simply can’t keep adding more to our lives without cramming our lives too full and overloading them. One of the tragedies of our culture is overcommitted people rushing from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, meeting to meeting, person to person, and not actually enjoying the incredible gift of being alive and present to the moment.

This is not just applicable to us as individuals. It is equally important for churches and ministries to pause for a moment before saying “yes” to a new opportunity, and remind ourselves that even though we can, doesn’t mean we should. It is such a hard thing to say no to some incredible opportunities, because they are just that - they are wonderful. Perhaps all of us have to confront our FOMO (Fear of missing out). Maybe it is a moment to remember that it frees up others to pursue the wonderful opportunity.

This is a wonderful moment to stop and remember that we are finite humans serving an infinite God. That the need and the opportunity will always be bigger than our capacity to take them on. Probably we will all die with an incomplete “to do” list. Jesus said ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.””

(Matthew 11:28–30 MESSAGE)

There is something beautifully redemptive about simplifying our lives, our work, our churches and our families to the essential, to the important, to the lasting. There are so many good and worthwhile things we could spend our hours and days on, but we must pause and remind ourselves that saying “yes” to this opportunity, actually mean we are saying “no” to another at the exact same time? Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should! 

There is something beautifully redemptive about simplifying our lives, our work, our churches and our families to the essential, to the important, to the lasting.

Perhaps take a moment right now and ask yourself and God that question. And then ask Him for the grace and the strength to say no to the extra and yes to the essential.


For more leadership thoughts, see growingthinking.com