Self-Care: Learning to Say No {Guest Post by Steve Austin}

Hey there, everyone. This Friday I’m happy to introduce you all to Steve Austin. As a blogger, freelancer, and regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Steve writes on a variety of subjects — faith, family, mental health, social justice, and more. And he’s also pretty active in the comment section here on the blog so you’ll likely see him around.

I actually first met Steve via the comment section on my blog. His comments stood out because they were so encouraging and because while our own histories with growing up in very conservative flavors of Christianity might not be totally identical, they sure do rhyme.

I hope you enjoy what self-care looks like to Steve. And be sure to say hi and leave him a comment.

Learning to Say No

Four years ago, I was a youth pastor, sign language interpreter, wedding photographer, radio host, husband, and father. In that order. My weeks were full of activity: long days and long nights were the norm. I worked in a school full-time, had after-school activities with the student I interpreted for, had a radio show Tuesday and Friday nights, church activities Wednesday night and all day Sunday, and my Saturdays were consumed with photoshoots or youth group activities, or both. People wondered how I could keep so many plates spinning, and in my religious fervor, I judged their lack of busyness. The only thing worse than a Democrat, in my humble opinion, was a lazy church person.

My wife begged for attention, my friends constantly complained that I was missing in action, and my anxiety was through the roof. But what could I possibly do about it, other than pop a little white pill and hope nobody found out. I had bought into the lie that it was my job to save the whole world. If not me, then who? Souls were at stake! Lives were hanging in the balance and who could possibly sleep when the blood of someone’s eternal damnation would be on my hands?

As a teen, we had the coolest youth room around. The back wall was painted with a city scene and above the skyscrapers was the phrase, “Win the Lost, No Matter the Cost”. I’d been raised to believe there was no greater joy and no more heavy a burden than preaching the gospel at every opportunity.

But somewhere along the way, I missed the part about my greatest calling being loving my neighbor and myself. In my late twenties, I failed to see the great responsibility in cultivating relationship with my wife and my children. I missed the part about resting. Every night, my wife would lay next to me, longing for intimacy, for deep conversation, for friendship with the one who had promised to cherish and respect her, but I was lost in connection on my iPhone, a million miles away, planning the next Great Awakening.

I figured she must be so proud. Look at all I was doing for the Lord! Yet, I in having no personal boundaries, I allowed a wall to be built, taller than anything Donald Trump could ever dream. And the people I was keeping out were the ones who loved me the most. I didn’t know it was okay, and even appropriate, to tell others, “no”.

These days, I shoot photography once every other month or so, there’s no radio show, no youth group, and I only work 29 hours a week. I would be lying if I said I never feel the tug of the American male, the breadwinner, to do more, because busyness equals success, right? Those lies were deeply ingrained, but all my busyness eventually came with a price.

Now, I start and end each day the very same way–at the kitchen table, with my wife and kids. We are more connected as a family than ever before, because I learned the hard way that I am not the Savior of the damn world. We may not have as much money in the bank as I would like, but that’s not what matters to me any more. The other day, my wife pulled me close, grabbed my chin, looked into my eyes, and exhaled, “I’m happy. I need you to know that. There’s nothing else in this world I want, but you.”

In stopping my ridiculous search for fulfillment in the local church, I have found my greatest calling. My house has become a sanctuary for my often-weary soul. We break bread at the altar of our own kitchen table. Morning and evening, we laugh and sometimes cry, but we do it together. We sometimes get our butts kicked, but we do it together. And often, we celebrate small victories, together.

I’m in religious recovery now, but I’m still seeking out genuine faith.

I now realize I was just as “lost” as every other freckle-faced teenager I was witnessing to on countless Friday nights at the mall. Wandering, searching for the approval of my local church instead of resting securely in the fact that I belong to a God who loves me immensely, totally, without question, for no other reason than Love is the very essence of his character.

In learning to say “no” to busyness and bullshit, I have learned how short life truly is, and just how precious my family is. I am learning that I am not what I do, but my worth is found in who I am. My worth is found in the legacy my wife and I are creating together, as equals, for our children.

12842374_204002123299101_1539091025_oSteve Austin is a family man, writer, and speaker from Birmingham, Alabama. Steve is a passionate advocate of second chances and he blogs regularly at You can also connect with Steve on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also check out Steve’s ebook Self-Care: Manifesto for Hard Days.

Kelsey’s Recommendation: One of the unfortunate possibilities when you’re friends with a Christian (of any variety) is that if your theology suddenly shifts they might decide that you now need to be “saved.” I’m speaking from personal experience here. As I wrote about in I Love You More than My Ideologies (Or that Time I was a Shitty Friend) I’ve been that Christian. More than once. And in his article I Don’t Need to be Saved, Steve talks about how he’s recently had more than one close friend pull this same stunt that I pulled in the name of theology on him. I highly suspect that more than a few of you will relate.

8 thoughts on “Self-Care: Learning to Say No {Guest Post by Steve Austin}

  1. Pingback: Self-Care: Learning to Say No –

  2. Kelsey, thanks again for the awesome opportunity to connect with your readers and for the very kind intro and recommendation. I am honored! We are all at different points on the journey and all just looking for belonging and friendship. You are creating that space on your site and I hope to be doing the same on mine. I appreciate you!


  3. This is more honest than most people would be, especially when it comes to ministry, faith journey, etc. I’ve seen ministry ruin countless people because of unrealistic and unbiblical demands forced upon them. I stepped away from church vocational ministry in September and have not found a church I worship in weekly because of the politics and other issues. I attend weekly, but I want the real deal. A few years ago, I must admit my faith was shaken when my ex-wife left for someone else, I resigned from a bad pastorate, and my income was far from what it once was. Now I’m content to help people as a hospice chaplain. This type of ministry involves less pretense. I go into these homes, and people let me see that their lives are screwed up and they don’t talk like “church people”. I would much rather have that than the hypocrisy I see in most cases. I have seen churches that function in a healthy manner, but they are in the minority. Thank you for an honest expression of where you are right now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matthew,
      I’m so sorry to hear about all you are walking through right now. Sometimes life is so very hard.

      I’m praying for peace for you and for connections with genuine believers who will encourage you during such a trying time.

      Stay in touch,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking as someone with years of working on the staff of several different churches behind me… I too am enjoying the more relaxed pace of being available to serve God in loving those around me more in this season. Slowing down… trusting Him more, savoring life, saying NO – it is a lovely place to be!


  5. It is, I think so easy to fall into the if not me then who trap no matter what path you are walking. It sounds like such a valid reason for running yourself into the ground. I am glad you have found a better pace Steve.


  6. johnberk

    I can relate to that, but the other way around. I spend a lot of my time with my wife and doing activities that are rather my hobbies than anything else. I’m not successful in the sense of what you call busyness, but I always despised the fact that our limited time would be spend doing things that we don’t like. But I felt the same way and ended up with (probably) the same white pill as you. So where is the problem? One of the explanations I had was that as a strict materialist, I came to an existential crisis, and realized that my whole existence was just a coincidence. Well, after some period of contemplation, I still think that churches would be more helpful as bars and restaurants (Bukowski style), but I also realized that pure materialist approach has its encoded epistemology that does not permit it to transcend its limited boundaries.
    This article makes me realize that even people who do have “higher” purpose in life are struggling to fight their anxiety. And it helps me – makes me feel more connected to things.

    I realize that the main problem is our perception of things that stems from our EGO. It is a matter of our own perception, but the perception lies to us, and makes you feel as a center of the Universe. Well, it is not. Not a single one of us is extremely important nor completely unimportant. It is the synergy with our surroundings which makes us what we are. We can’t separate, we share the same burden-privilege of existence.


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