Say No

May 14, 2018 Length: 22:23

In this inaugural episode of The Way of the Warrior Saint, Fr. Chris explores how to conquer the epidemic of busyness by learning how to say NO.

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Hey, hey, warrior saints! Welcome to The Way of the Warrior Saint podcast. I’m your host, Fr. Christopher Salamy, the pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Glad to be with you. So glad to be here and share some thoughts and ideas with you as we try to journey on the way of the warrior saint.

What is the way of the warrior saint? What is this we’re doing? Why are we here and what’s it all about? Well, The Way of the Warrior Saint is designed to help you unlock your inner greatness by following the way of the warrior saint. The way of the warrior saint is practical, biblical, and crucifixional living. Practical, biblical, and crucifixion living: it is a life focused on other, not necessarily focused on myself. As we journey through life, as we’re trying to live our lives, we are called by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to a different kind of life, to a life that’s really transcendent, that is conquering, if you will, all the craziness and the chaos of this world that we live in. The way of the warrior saint is our guide as we do that.

Before we begin today’s first episode, I want to send a quick shout-out to John Maddex and all of his team at Ancient Faith Radio. They are super, have been a great help; really appreciate you guys. Super generous, super awesome. Really, I couldn’t do this without you guys, and I’m thankful. I also want to send a shout-out to my team in Phoenix, to Greg and Val and Tricia. Those beautiful people help me do whatever little I do. Anything I’ve got to give, it comes from really the support that those guys give. So you guys rock. Thank you very much. I appreciate you.

And without further ado, let’s get after it. You know, if we’re really honest with ourselves, if we really say it, all of us want to be great. All of us want to be great. Somewhere deep down inside, really deep down inside our gut, we are called to be great. We’re not called to be mediocre. We’re not called to be like the rest of the world. If you really look: read the very first chapter of the Bible. In Genesis 1:26, we hear that we were made in the image and after the likeness of God. We’re not made in an image of mediocrity; we’re made in the sense of something transcendent, awesome, great! We want it, but there’s so many things that are going on in life, so many distractions and challenges that are pulling us away from this that it becomes brutal. It’s hard to live life, and we struggle with all kinds of these things. Sometimes we don’t know up from down; we don’t know which way we’re going. That’s what the way of the warrior saint is here for. It’s to help be our guide in the journey of our lives.

The world tries to trick you to focus on yourself. One of the things we’re going to talk about today I think is the greatest trick that the world is playing on us right now, is this constant busyness, to be busy. But, you know, when we’re busy, the world’s trying to teach us to focus on ourselves. Where does that get you? That doesn’t get you very far, right? So the way of the warrior saint is to guide us and to teach us to live a Christ-like life.

We’re just going to start and get right into it about this whole idea of being busy. It’s a funny thing. We all run around, in North America especially—I’m sure it’s global. It becomes almost a badge of honor where we become so busy and so wrapped up in all of the stuff that we have to do that we don’t even think about boasting to somebody else that: “Oh, honey, you think you’re busy? You should see how busy I am.” Like I say, it becomes a badge of honor. It’s something where my busyness outdoes your busyness.

It struck me funny. It’s like: Dude, we’re making a millimeter of progress in a million different directions, to quote Greg McKeown in his great book Essentialism. A millimeter of progress in a million different directions, and what that really means is that I’m not making any progress in any direction. We find ourselves wrapped up always… I’m not one of those guys that’s going to bash cell phones and all social media and all that stuff all the time. I mean, I use it; how can you not use it? It has so many great benefits if you know how to do it right. But let’s just be candid: we spend a lot of time with it. We spend a lot of time with it, and we all look at it, and we’re all going to have neck problems, I guess, because it’s consumptive. We’re not consuming it; it is consuming us.

The problem with all of that busyness is there is a lot of motion, but I don’t know that there’s a lot of action. There’s a lot of stress, but I don’t know if there’s a lot of success. I don’t think we spend enough time with our family, our health, our physical health. Who has time to do that kind of stuff? And we don’t spend time with our friends. Our work, our business may suffer a little bit because we’re running around, trying to do it all. Think about your… Even for our kids, our teens and younger, how much homework do they have? I know they have a lot now, for sure, but there’s no time to adequately study and read and think. Ultimately, we don’t have time to take care of our inner life. Prayer or meditation or whatever you may do to kind of center yourself, we don’t even have time to do that kind of stuff, because we’re just running around, so busy.

We say things: “All right, I’m going to start tomorrow.” But then tomorrow doesn’t come, and we find ourselves just in this loop—maybe it’s even just a habit loop—that just repeats over and over, of this constant busyness where we make, as we said before, a millimeter of progress in a million different directions. We might feel like we’re not offering our highest contribution to the world. I’m really not giving the world the very best that I could give. I’m really just giving a mediocre effort.

Like we said before, thinking back to Genesis 1, you’re not made to give mediocre; you’re made to give great, and to make that highest point of contribution and really to effect change. Sometimes when we find ourselves running around with all this chaos in our lives, it’s like you kind of feel busted up about it, you know?

So what do you do about that? What’s the story? How do we handle all that kind of stuff? I know it’s tough; I go through it, too. Anyone who tells you they don’t is spinning yarn. But what do we do about it? I think the answer to that question is that we have to live a crucifixional life. So what does that mean? We made that word up in Phoenix: crucifixional. Basically, it is what you hear in it. It is to live a life of the Gospel of the cross. It is to live a sacrificial life, a life where you put other first. So the focus becomes not about you, not on yourself, not on what you think what you need. All of those things matter, to be sure; we’re not being trite here, but it is to put a focus on another person, to focus on other.

In order to do that, we have to do that. That’s where the word “crucifixional” comes from, to sacrifice. In order to conquer this busyness and to give the appropriate time to all of those aspects of our lives that we know we should be—family, work, friends, health, all that kind of stuff—we have to be crucifixional. We have to be crucifixional. What that means, in a very simple and a very practical sense, really in its most basic sense, what I’m going to offer today—and it’s totally hard—we have to learn to say no. We have to learn how to say no to all those things that try to swallow up our time. Let me tell you, it’s really not easy to do that. I think if you’re doing it effectively, you don’t say no here and there. I mean, candidly, I think if you’re doing it right, you say no 95% of the time. 95% of the time: you have to say no to basically everything so that you can focus and have time on those things that matter, the real things, the meat and bones of life.

It’s hard. I’m telling you, it’s hard. I’m going to tell you a story. Forgive as I speak about myself. As a priest, I love my people, totally love them, love sharing in the events of their lives. There was one day where this beautiful couple got married, and they had their reception at a fabulous resort here in Phoenix called the Montelucia. It’s dope; it really is a beautiful place. We went to the reception: it was black tie; the food was delicious. The people at our table were so gracious, so kind; we had great conversation. The band was awesome. The night was great. It was a legitimately joyous event. But throughout the event: “Hey, Father, champagne toast this. Father, have this glass of wine. Hey, Father—” The band is thumping, and your head is thumping, and you have to scream in order to talk to the guy seated next to you at the reception. We’ve all probably been to that kind of an event.

So that night I went home, and my head was just thumping, just pounding. I went to sleep, restless sleep, and got up the next morning and went to church. It was like foggy. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Obviously, I wasn’t intoxicated the night before, but it’s just the fog of sleeplessness and the loud and the screaming. I went to liturgy, and my sermon sucked; it was terrible. I had worked on it, I had it prepped, but I just didn’t have the mojo to get it out, to deliver it properly. That’s my number-one job. That’s what I was ordained to do. A man becomes an Orthodox priest: in the prayer of ordination, it gives four basic tasks that we ask God bless this man to be ordained to do. Four basic tasks: the job description, if you will. The first one is to preach the Gospel of truth. So before anything else, what I’m supposed to do is to preach the Gospel—and on that day, I stunk. It was terrible.

I turned around, I looked at my fellow clergy, I made a face like: What am I even talking about? The problem is it was on me, because I was not willing to say no to that reception. I went home and I said to my bride: Look, I’m not ever doing that on a Saturday night again. I’m just not going to any more receptions for anything, any more dinners, any more parties. Nothing on Saturday nights. I just can’t do it and be effective on Sunday morning. My beautiful bride, she laid into me. She’s like: No, you can’t do that. Your people love you because you’re in their lives and you go with them and you spend moments with them. You can’t say no.

I said: You’re right. I mean, she’s totally right. Thank God, as I said, my people rock. We have this relationship because we have this relationship. But I said to her: You know what, I get it. I understand. I don’t disagree with you, but I know that the one thing I am supposed to do, the number-one thing that I’m supposed to do, I was terrible at today because I wasn’t responsible about it the night before, and I’m never doing it again. I’ll tell you something; I’m going to be honest with you: it’s hard to say no to my people. It’s hard to say no to anybody for any invitation. You love people. I get it. All of us have it. We feel obligation, we feel guilt, we want to be there. We want to enjoy the time and be with all of these beautiful people and celebrate these events. We love that. So it’s hard to say no.

But I’ll tell you: when you start to do that, when you start to say no to those other things that take you away from the one thing that you’re supposed to be doing, people, believe it or not, they come to respect you for it. My community in Phoenix at St. George… I don’t want to aggrandize myself more than I need to, but they’re so gracious. They want me at their events, and I know that when there’s a wedding reception or a baptism reception or whatever it may be on a Saturday and I don’t go, they miss it. They do, and it’s a tough thing, but they respect it, and they respect me because I have remained steadfast in that ever since that beautiful wedding when it all went down. They make me definitely, to be sure—if Phoenix is listening, I love you people—you make me feel good about it: “We miss you, Father.” Of course, and I miss you, but the truth of it is that I’ve got one thing, and it really goes down on Sunday morning, and I’ve got to do everything I can to prep and to rest and do prayer so that I can give it to you right.

All of that rambling, I think you can see the point that I’m making is that in your life, when you are confronted with all of these other things that are trying to pull you off the way of the warrior saint, they’re trying really to corrupt your life with chaos and busyness and this false sense of accomplishment of motion rather than by action, it’s a hard thing to say no to, but you have to learn how to say no so that you can say yes to the things you want to say yes to.

Let’s just talk about it for a couple of minutes. If you’re in school, if you’re a student and you know you’ve got a test tomorrow. Someone’s hitting you up on Snap or Insta, or you want to surf, look at YouTube videos or whatever it may be, you just have to say no to that so you can study. You just have to. It doesn’t mean that you’re never going to go back to YouTube. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to respond to the text messages. But it means that at this moment, the number-one thing that you have to focus on is not this chaotic, busy, trying to do all four things at once. It is to put down the phone, put down the tablet, whatever it is, and focus on your homework.

Same thing in your physical health. We have this great running joke in Phoenix: you can’t be healthy and eat a bag of Doritos. It just doesn’t work. The two don’t go together; they just don’t. So you’re going to have to sacrifice a little bit, be a bit crucifixional for your taste buds in order to keep your cardiologist happy. You can’t do both. You can’t sit on the couch all the time and eat your Doritos watching football and be healthy. It’s just not going to work. It means you have to say no to an extra hour of sleep and wake up at 5:30 in the morning and go run or go lift or whatever kind of exercise you do. You just have to do that. You don’t get that health for free.

I will often giggle when I listen to people in their businesses and in their jobs and their careers. The one that makes me laugh the most is: “Oh, Father, it’s a rough week. I make a lot of cold calls in sales, and my requirement is to make 150, and I get to 150 and I just kind of cruise from there and hope it all just works out.” I’m always stunned. You have to make 150 sales calls? Make 151, 152. Why don’t you sacrifice a little bit more of your relaxation time so that you can succeed in your job and in your career? It’s perhaps a trite example, but I think it’s one that I think we can all understand.

Really, really important is to sacrifice some of your own personal time for the sake of your spouse or for your significant other. If you’re dating someone or you’re married, what’s the whole point of that relationship? It is relationship, and that means you be with people, you spend time with them. Sometimes we come home after work and we’re tired and we’ve worked hard all day, and really all we want to do is sit down and watch TV or have a cocktail and read a book or whatever, just to relax and unwind from the day and the chaos and stress of the day. So what do we do? We kind of insulate ourselves so that we can decompress. Again, that’s necessary in life. It’s important; we can’t not do that.

But there’s another person in the house, another person who needs you, another person who’s had their own fight today, another person—whether they’ve dealt with children or their own careers or whatever, or both, for some, whatever it may be. There is another human being in there who has a need, and you need to put your self aside. You have to say no to yourself so that you can say yes to your husband, yes to your wife, no to your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, whatever it may be. You have to say no to yourself so you can say yes to them.

Lastly, really the most important thing I think is our spiritual well-being. I don’t even like to use that word, but I think you understand what I mean. We just have to take some time and breathe a little bit, say our prayers, study, especially holy Scripture. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that I’m trying to fight through and to say no to is my phone first thing in the morning. The first thing I do when I get out of bed—boom: let’s see who emailed, who texted, who called, who wants what, who Snapped. All the notifications come in, and you’re like: Aaah, let’s see. Before you’ve even had time to wipe the sleep out of your eyes, you’re already bombarded with other people’s requests and desires and needs from you. If you’re like me, you kind of just slip into it: I have to write him back and write her back, and I’ve got to call, and I have to— I have to— and all of a sudden I’m out of bed and I’m brushing my teeth as fast as I can and taking a shower and putting on my clothes and—boom: out the door. And I forgot to take some time for a little bit of quiet. Forgot to take some time to say a prayer, even one, for heaven’s sakes. And I’m consumed by the busyness of the day, and I’ve said yes to all of that chaos and no to the one thing that matters.

So I’ve started, I’m making attempts to conquer that. There are a million tricks. We’ll talk about them as we go in subsequent podcasts, but somehow the first thing we do when the alarm goes off is a prayer rather than: Let’s check email.

All of that to be said, warrior saints; all of that to be said. Somewhere deep inside of you, you know. I’ve not told you anything fancy, exciting, new, something you didn’t know, something that’s not within you. You know. We all know. We’re all seeing it, this chaos, this tragedy, really, of busyness in this world. We know that if we don’t learn how to say no to these things, if we don’t know how to put first things first, if we don’t know when to say yes and when to say no (i.e., 95% of the time), we’re going to end in disaster. We’re going to be living miserable lives.

Look, just take a minute today, if you’re driving in your car or when you go to work, whatever; look around. Look at people. Look in their eyes. You can see the misery; it’s all over the place. Shoot, you may even see it in the mirror. That’s not where we want to end. We want to end in offering to the world, to other people, the very highest contribution that we can offer, the very best version of ourselves. We want to offer to the world great, and in order to do that, in order to find that in us, we have to live a practical, biblical, and crucifixional life, a life that we call the way of the warrior saint. That begins by learning to say no.

All right, warrior saints, I know that stuff’s hard. I know that is hard, but I know that you can do it. I know that inside you, you’ve got it. God put it there. Go get some. Before we go, let me say this. Make sure you check us out on YouTube. We post a lot of videos on YouTube: youtube.com/warriorsaints. We try to throw a couple up there each week. Check us out, subscribe, share it, help us get this movement going, really across the world. We appreciate all of that and all of you and all of your help. Until next time, on The Way of the Warrior Saint, this is Fr. Chris Salamy. Go get some.