Don't Kick the Anthill - Lysa TerKeurst

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.

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).

By Lysa TerKeurst

Want to make wise, God-honoring choices in the midst of raw emotions? Find encouragement with Lysa’s book Unglued. Click here to purchase your copy!

{Photo by Luke Jones}
  • Ruth

    Lysa, I so recognize this situation, more readily than I recognize the anthills! Lord, let me see the anthill for what it is, a temptation to climb a miniscule and temporary podium, to raise myself rather than bowing low to you and your plans. Lord let me truly see. Amen
    My experience is that so often the extra time is squeezed from time set aside for The Lover of my soul. No one will notice that, I can appear more amazing than ever! Yet I know, and I miss Him, He knows and He waits, waits for the painful grace of ant bites to bring this prodigal daughter to her senses and back into the loving, forgiving arms of her Father
    Bless you Lysa

  • Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God


    “Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it.” It’s only taken me 52 years, but I think that I have finally gotten better at gracefully saying “no”. One key thing I’ve learned is to not answer immediately until I have had some time to pray about it and take it to my Heavenly Father and ask Him if this is Kingdom work that I need to be doing or if it is a job better suited to someone else’s talents. I smile because I did have to learn by kicking many anthills in my day. Thanks for a great reminder this morning!

  • Amanda

    Another timely reminder! Thank you Lysa.

  • Marcy

    Yep! Ummhmm. Preach!

  • EmmySofia

    Perfect, perfect, perfect! I’ve kicked a lot of anthills in my day and I definitely need to start learning the word ‘no.’ Thanks for this!

  • karyn

    Yup. I’ve made so many mistakes as well in my life and it all went terribly wrong for me.

    Good advise.


  • ephale

    This is exactly what I needed to hear…I have a habit of kicking ant hills. Thank you!

  • Lisa

    I think in the saying “yes” it is usually well intentioned and from the right place. However, a little more pondering and double checking the schedule will help a ton, in my case….

  • Patty Muich

    Oh I just loved this post! First off it reminded me of when I was young. My mom and I spent many happy hours with nature. One day we noticed that ants were moving their eggs. We back tracked to see where they had started from and then ‘picked’ one ant to follow. I think it was like 15 minutes for it to reach the new ant hill. They worked all day. By the next day I had forgot all about them and was off to do something else. I often wondered how many days it took them to move and thanked God I had that day with my mom. Thank you for reminding me of that happy memory.

    The message of your post hit right at home too. I over do it ALL the time and cause myself headaches and heartaches. I am disabled and my time is my own. When I say that I have so much to do (online) people look at me as if I am nuts. LOL! I must be!

    I stop and sit back and try to straighten myself out but a couple of weeks later? Same bundle of nerves not knowing where to turn or what to do first to catch up. I should find a picture of an ant and put it on the side of my monitor. Help me to stop and think before I kick!

    Thank you honey!

  • Birdie

    Probably full of fire ants, right? This is a good reminder though to really consider something before jumping in feet first and then wondering, why did I do that?

  • Carol hiestand

    Of yes. I remember in my 40’s (20 years ago) my husband asked this question as we sat at a restaurant catching up with ourselves; “what are your goals these days?” Well it was “just survive”. He thought that was sad. So did I. I looked at what I had said yes too. It took me 2months to work myself off committees etc. and have done better since then with occasional wake up calls. Great post

  • Kathy

    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.

    I think I have an eating problem….because when I read the above sentence I completely thought of my relationship with food, binging, being a closet eater, and an introvert. I do say “No” to many things for many reasons and I should probably say “yes” more often.

    I do say “Yes” to another bite, another cookie, another bowl of ……(fill in the blank) when I should be saying “No, I am not hungry, it will not satisfy the void I am trying to fill, and simply why??? do I continue the roller coaster of food?”

    thanks for the reflective thoughts….

  • Elaine

    Thank you for this reminder with such a great word picture to remember. How often I have said “yes” to things, and my motive is almost always to prove to myself or someone else that I really can do it.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    My tendency to say “yes” too often comes from the desire to please people. But as I’ve gotten older, saying “no” has become easier. Most of the time, if I say, “I cannot say yes to another thing,” the other person understands. She’s experienced over-commitment, too.

    Thank you, Lysa, for the wise advice (especially for the Christmas season!), and the great story to make it memorable.


    Lysa, you know me so well…!! I used to have a book on my shelf- “I feel guilty when I say no”. It was the title of my life story.

    “Hi, my name is Jim. I’m a compulsive people pleaser. What can I do for you that will help me think you like me?” I became a Master at knowing very quickly what I thought YOU needed me to be. “Yes, You! and You, and You.”

    In the process of pleasing (tryingto) everybody, “I” got lost. All of a sudden, I was 63 years old and had NO IDEA who “I” was. Then, 5 years ago, my Mom passed away and I became desperate to find out who “I” was. I’m discovering I like me. God Loves me. I still want “You” to like me, but most days it’s no longer a compulsion. If “You” don’t like me, we can talk about it, but if for some reason we can’t work it out, I can live with that. …Maybe, …just Maybe, it’s YOUR problem, not mine! WOW, what a concept!

    I began to see that by saying “YES” to “YOU”, I had to say “NO” to something or somebody else. Too often, that was my wife.

    As I have learned that “NO” is a complete sentence and needs no explanation, I find I am beginning to say “YES” with more enthusiasm and commitmt. Even, or perhaps especially, when “YES” leads to more involvement than I thought at the time.

    My wife is very pleased when I tell somebody: “No, I can’t help you, I have a date with my wife a that time.” …Life is good.


    Finding “ME…”

  • Kristen

    This fall I was forced to take what I refer to as “Sabbath Rest” ; that includes saying ‘no’ to pretty much every request that came my way. It has been a very freeing time to say ‘no’ with zero guilt. (Pretty unheard of, in my world!) But I have found that saying ‘no’ has given me more time to spend with Jesus. This has been the most amazing gift of all.

  • Beth Williams

    What a great thought provoking post! It is soo very important to value time as money. As I age I find myself wanting to do things, then ending up saying no due to drive time, cooking time & just wanting time alone or with my hubby!

    Don’t get me wrong, I love doing thins with people. It’s usually been a long work week, to tired of driving (most places are 10+ miles from home), or the weather. I don’t feel guilty saying no to certain things. I tell people work has been busy or like yesterday I had a stupid cold and didn’t want to give it to others.

    People, especially women, need to learn to balance time with family, self, work & others. It can be hard, but saying no is a start.

    Bless you!