Just say “no.”
Nope, I’m not talking about saying no to drugs. I’m talking about saying no to one too many extracurricular activities, coffee dates on full days, and paper-writing sessions on Sunday nights.
The goal of a liberal education is to form the mind — to shape the person by shaping his thoughts, teaching him to discern and love good things. Our classes and professors aid us toward this end. The next step is living here, in this good place, and learning to live out our education in our daily lives. Amidst all these many good things, we must discern; we must choose.
And this choosing means saying no. It means verbalizing a word that often is distasteful for many of us. We don’t want to be the bad guy. We don’t want to miss out. We often forget that, by refusing to say no, we are jeopardizing the goods that we are learning to love — the goods in which we have carefully chosen to invest our time.
By refusing to discern and discriminate, we are lessening the time given to each good that we have chosen. It’s an idea easily spoken, yet hard to live out — by saying no to one more thing, we are saying yes to our few good things. We do an injustice to the things we have been given to study by agreeing to go to that one extra event. We display ingratitude for our invaluable friendships by not leaving time to invest in them. Perhaps saying no is a matter of justice: shouldn’t we give these good things their proper due? Perhaps this simple word can help us create a life defined by moments well lived instead of planners well crammed.
We need to rethink the word no. We need to practice using this precious defender of the hierarchy of goods in an effort to value those things we are here to learn, those people we are called to love, and this place we’ve been given to enjoy.