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Don’t Kick the Anthill

March 26, 2013

I stood at the little red dirt mound watching ants. They were busy. I was not.

The afternoon had been a little too slow for me. Several of my friends had gotten an invitation to the community pool. Another friend was at camp for the week. Even my very last resort, the pigtailed aggravation that lived in the apartment below ours, was busy. “She’s napping,” her mom had informed me.

I walked away thinking, “She’s 6 years old. Only two years younger than me and she still takes naps? That’s the awfullest thing a mom could do to her child. And this is now the awfullest afternoon ever.”

I sat on the swing of the sad little playground behind our apartment complex. I scuffed the toes of my red Keds, making lines in the dirt as I moved slowly back and forth. If a child could have died from boredom, I felt quite terminal at that moment.

Then I spotted the anthill.

I walked over and stood there. Just about the time I was thinking about how lucky all those ants were to have so many friends, I heard a scratchy little voice call out to me.

“I bet you won’t stick your foot through that anthill.” Pigtailed girl had woken up from her afternoon slumber. And for heaven’s sake I would not, could not be shamed by a girl who still took naps.

I knew with my mind I shouldn’t kick the anthill. I knew with my heart I shouldn’t kick the anthill. And I knew deep down in my soul I shouldn’t kick the anthill. I knew. Every part of me knew I should walk away from the anthill.

But some silly part of my mouth betrayed me.

“Yes I will!” I declared as I kicked my foot into the middle of ant Hades.

It didn’t take long to feel as if someone had lit 1,000 needles on fire and was stabbing me mercilessly.

Since that day I haven’t kicked an anthill. At least not in the literal sense.

But I have gotten myself into situations where I invited trouble into my life that just didn’t need to be there. Especially in the area of saying yes to something I absolutely should say no to.

I will know with my mind I should say no. I will know with my heart I should say no. I will know deep down in my soul I should say no.

But then my mouth will betray me, “Yes, of course I will do that.”

And then?

The sting of the three d’s comes…

Dread- As I write yet another thing on my schedule, I feel the weight of overload.

Disappointment- In order to make this happen, I will disappoint someone. Time is like money in the bank, there is only so much of it. And once it runs out, any further expenditures will cause an overdrawn account.

Drama- Dread and disappointment will ratchet my emotions to a tipping point. A tipping point that’s not healthy for me or those with whom I do life.

Here’s what I’m trying to preach to myself: Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it.
Before I make a commitment, I have to remember that just because I can do something, doesn't mean I should.

I kicked the anthill that day for three reasons… I thought it proved I was something. I thought it would impress nap girl. And because I didn’t think through the cost beforehand.

Maybe, before saying yes to one more thing on my schedule today, I should ask myself…

Am I trying to prove something?

Am I trying to impress someone?

Have I thought through the cost of saying yes?

It’s not bad to say yes to opportunities. But we really should consider whether this is an assignment or an anthill.

Take the assignment if it’s yours. But, don’t kick the anthills.

“He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray,” (Proverbs 10:17).

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  1. Julie Sunne

    Perfect post for me today (and everyday) Lisa! The analogy is so powerful. In addition to the admonishment not to kick the anthill, I appreciate the questions you pose as prefaces to saying yes. I will be trying it out. Blessings!

  2. jane

    Perfect post as I sit here writing my notes for an upcoming seminar for which I agreed to lead not one, but two sessions, and do it for free. Yes, it’s a good cause. And Yes, it gives me exposure, but it also takes me away from other things that I should be doing. Thanks for the reminder that saying no is not a bad thing. I am hoping I’ll walk away with some clients from this seminar and in the future, I’ll take a few minutes to think about my response when asked to do something that might not be the best situation and just maybe say no!

  3. Mary Lou

    What an excellent word picture–kicking an anthill. Today I am feeling the stings and pain of kicking an anthill, and unfortunately, my 16 year old daughter is feeling them, too. We both said yes when we probably should have said no.

  4. Erika

    Oh I know these three D’s sooo well! This is just perfect, thank you!

  5. Jamie

    As I am filling in every last opening in my calendar, i happen to stumble across this.. God is so timely! All I can say is WHOA! I will be anticipating a letter from my “bank” telling me I am way overdrawn and now have excessive fees to pay….
    Thank you Lysa!

  6. Melissa

    great advice Lysa TerKeurst

  7. Janie Moore

    Thank you so much for your post today! I have a brother and his girlfriend doing all kinds of things to get me to “kick the anthill” and it’s making me crazy not saying anything to them about it. I have been telling myself all day, “turn the other cheek, turn the other cheek” and I haven’t been able to calm down. After reading your story it’s helped me settle down and get myself back under control again. I would greatly appreciate your prayers for our family. Thank you!

  8. Tiffany Brown

    As a someone who will say YES to keep from having to hurt someone, then realizing the person(s) I hate the most are me, my husband and my son. Because you see I don’t want “others” to think bad of me but really I should be looking at my family and saying you know I would love to but I have some very important things going on right now. Like you say sometimes they are just anthills. 🙂

  9. rebecca

    Thank you for your insight. Last night, I read chapter 11 of made to crave and this morning, I received the nothing wasted devotional from proverbs 31. I’m so grateful for your obedience to our Father. I have been blessed by your words of wisdom. Recently, I was seeking a promotion that would increase my income but not follow the path where God had been leading. I’m still struggling with the need to take care of myself instead trusting that God will make a way. I’m glad that God knows what is best for us and that he forgives me even when my pride takes over.

  10. Anne

    Loved the post and the way you leveraged our decisions with consequences. No one made you kick that anthill. No one makes us make the decisions we make. And yet, there remains those stinging consequences. Thanks, Lysa.

  11. Kimberly

    I have a decision I am praying about right now, and those three questions are just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  12. Amanda

    I started reading this, and thought to myself, “I wonder if this came out of her writing time this weekend?” The anthill is a wonderful analogy (and visual!)–dealing with my own anthill that I said “yes” to for all the wrong reasons, and am now just praying that I still do a good, effective job at it, because sometimes when I say yes to something I shouldn’t, the job I do isn’t as good as it should be! Will be putting your “three Ds” in my journal and meditating on that quite a bit with a future decisions!

  13. Esther

    I need to get Rosetta Stone for Boundaries and relearn how to say NO all over again!

  14. Kelly

    Thank you, yet again, Lysa! I have several anthills in my life right now, some I’ve chosen and some are responsibilities that fall on me when there is no one else to do them. Lately I’ve been spread much too thin, and my home and family suffer when I feel so stressed. Funny thing is, one of those anthills just got taken from me yesterday, yet I felt sad about it. Why? Because I like the job, I like being able to accomplish the things that I do at the job, and I like the pride that comes from doing it. But, it is no longer necessary for me to do it, so I should be happy. Thank you for giving me perspective so that I can see this one thing as an anthill, something that I should walk away from and be glad knowing that this thing can be taken care of without me.

  15. Mary Hampton

    Such a good (and timely) reminder!). We’ve recently moved for my husband to take a new pastoral position. Years ago, our new pastor’s wife mentioned that she heard from a wise pastor’s wife that she always gave herself a year before taking on leadership roles when her husband took a new position. We were in our first year of marriage; children wouldn’t join our family for another 7 years, but I filed away that tidbit for future reference.

    It’s proven to be a good guideline for me over the years. That year lets our family find its rhythm in our new town and new church. It keeps me free to help my kids settle in well. It lets my husband’s job at the church be primary (as it should be) over any volunteer role I might take on. It lets me learn about the church and interact with people from across ministries before I narrow my involvement. It gives time for God to speak to my heart and lead me into the place I can be best used.

    We’re just 3 months into that year and I find myself tempted to set aside the guideline that has served us well as I hear whispers of areas I’d like to contribute. I can’t say that those whispers are God’s voice telling me to jump in. In fact, all the reasons it’s been a good idea are still in play. But it’s tempting to think, “Maybe if I just help on that committee.” or, “If I just get involved in that one event, that will be ok.”

    God has given me opportunities–maybe even assignments–in areas outside the church for this season. Taking on something He hasn’t directed will mean I can’t give my best to the things He’s already directed.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Claire

    If you asked my girls about one of their mom’s favorite sayings, I think they’d say “Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it”. Served us all very well over the years! Thanks, Lysa–always in my prayers!

  17. Samantha

    I just kicked a anthill and dont know how to react. Help

  18. vanessa stephens

    Wow this is amazing!!! All this week God has had me thinking about assignments that He gives us. We may have a lot of “buts” but He knows what has to be done, not us!! Love this Lysa!! When I saw the word assignment it took my breath away!!


  19. Elise Daly Parker

    Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Oh yes, good questions to ask. Easter Blessings!

  20. Jennifer

    I walk away from “making commitments” feeling like this all the time yet what am I committing to? Feeling the “three d’s.” Very we’ll said. Thank You for allowing The Lord to use you.

  21. Missy

    Such convicting questions to ask myself, all three! Thank you Lysa – this is an encouraging push to examine my motives much more closely.

  22. Karen S

    This so hit home with me and made me stop and think!

  23. Debbi

    This was so perfect! We have been wayyyy over-scheduled for quite some time and some of it is because I haven’t said “No” when I really should have. I so appreciate the visual picture! 🙂 That will definitely stick with me and help me to ask those important questions before saying “Yes” to one more thing. Thank you, Lysa!

  24. susan

    Thank you so much for your story on running away, it spoke to me. I have recently broken my shoulder and upper arm and am not one to sit still it took me away from a sport I love. Something that made me feel good about myself. I am not patient or a very good patient. someone called me today as I have been too active and in a lot of pain and said some very hurtful things to me like I didn’t really have a broken shoulder or I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I am doing, if it was broken. Every night I am in great pain as well as every morning. God has done this for a reason and for a season I need to get over it and your writing helped me ,thank you so much

  25. Sally

    Perfect analogy! Being one with a “helium hand” (it’s always going up to say “yes” to the need), I have had to really learn the hard way that the need is not necessarily the call. When I feel compelled to say “yes” (for whichever of the three reasons you gave), I make myself miserable and grumpy (not exactly spiritual), I take time away from my family (which is my first calling), and I also take a job away from someone else who actually IS called! Wonder whatever happened to “napgirl!” 🙂

  26. Jill Beran

    Great post! I’ll be honest…last weekend in a way I was disappointed to be in Iowa knowing I’d been invited to NC to spend time with some wonderful women!! If all our ant hills weren’t covered with snow, I may have kicked one!! I felt this way clearly knowing it was a decision God had led me to say “No” to and now I’m grateful for your reminder which helps me realize by listening and obeying I avoided the 3 “D’s”! A great reminder that God has our best interest in mine and has the perfect plan…making decisions is all about trusting Him, dying to self and accepting the results! Obviously all things I need to work on…so my friend, keep sharing all your wonderful insight!! Blessings from the farm, Jill

  27. Donna

    Wow! Great anthill analogy and one that made me think of one of my grandmother’s sayings. Whenever I was faced with an important decision, she’d say, “if you get burned, you’ll have to sit on the blister.” That was her way of telling me that whatever my decision, I’d have to deal with the consequences!

  28. Tristine Barry

    Thanks so much for this Lysa. I am so guilty of over commitment and my mind knows it contributes to my stress.God is so amazingly wonderful with His timing.I so needed to great this. I really appreciate all you are doing for us and the rest of the world.

  29. janene@EverydayEO

    I linked to this post today as I blogged about a devotional you sent out last week that has been running through my brain: ) Be blessed!!

  30. Ida

    My “ant hill” is trying not to lash out at a sister who knows how to press every one of my buttons in sequential order…This year I have learned to bite my tongue no matter what I read/hear/etc, which is almost as painful as getting bit by ants, but not quite. Yay for steps in the right direction!

  31. Stephanie

    Thank you for sharing.

  32. Jeff Goins

    THANK YOU, Lysa, for affirming the fact that it’s not bad to welcome opportunities… BUT there can be a cost. Beautifully said.

  33. Boss

    Wow this is all about motive.. why we do what we do and there’s no good thing as doing something your heart and God is at peace with.

  34. Jennifer

    Wonderful post. I haven’t kicked any “anthills” lately, but this is one situation that I know will come up again and again. Thank you Lysa!

  35. Cami

    My husband loves me even when I am not at all loving towards him. I wish I could see me through his eyes just for a moment to see what he sees. Marriage is painfully wonderful…

  36. Holly @ The Belle Mere

    I need to preach this to myself too: Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it. I am guilty of doing this too often and getting havoc in my life and others.

  37. Rhonda Brasseal

    Wow! You skillfully went to the core and extracted the cause. Such truth! Thank you.

  38. leslie

    read this a few days ago, and deleted it. then the image of the anthill kept coming back to me so I did a google search and found it. It’s a good message for those of us who over commit. Is this an anthill? Is God calling me to do this? Or….not?
    I’m always stuck with the if not me, then who question. Maybe sometimes the answer is nobody. Maybe ….I have to be resigned to just locking the doors and turning out the lights in the end…when there’s nobody left.

  39. Debbie Hollingsworth

    This spoke to my heart today. It’s so easy to kick those anthills trying to prove what doesn’t need to be proven. I kick them, sometimes daily, to try to improve my self worth. My deeds of life can quickly turn to martyrdom. Lord, thank you for this word today. Help me to hide it in my heart and keep it fresh in my mind when making my decisions today and always. In Jesus precious name, Amen

  40. Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings

    Lisa, I so needed this! I completely overloaded my schedule so much that I didn’t have anytime for myself, my family, or even my own projects that I wanted to do. I ended up having to back out of quite a few commitments, and it was embarrassing to do so. It would have been so much better not to commit to them beforehand! I’m going to print this post out and stick it where I can read it everyday. Because like you said, my mind tells me one thing, but another just blurts right out of my mouth because I want so bad to please.

    Thank you.

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