Have you ever had a situation where someone asks you for something and you feel like if you say no they aren’t going to be your friend anymore? So you’re tempted to say yes, even though it takes every last bit of will to do so. But when you do, you become frustrated and overwhelmed as well as feel resentful and angry towards that person. The word “no” is a very common word in the English language but it is so difficult to say. Even more difficult is allowing yourself to be comfortable saying “no” without feeling like you owe an explanation or defense for the decision.
For me, there are a lot of reasons I have a really hard time with that one word. I am a people pleaser at heart so saying no often translates into me feeling like I’m letting people down or not helping them when they need it. I don’t want people to be mad at me or miss out on something fun. And so, time and time again, I say yes to things I know I do not have the capacity for, and it is often at the expense of something else.
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I used to think saying no to others was selfish. But I forget that saying yes too many times ends up making me feel overwhelmed and stressed out. The more I take on because I say yes, the more I exhaust myself. I can’t give from an empty well and often times have nothing left to give. In turn, I am not able to show up as my best self – the one God created me to be. It causes me to neglect the rest of the things I really should be doing in my life.
During the month of NO-vember, I am going to prioritize saying no to things. While the word no gets a bad rap, a solid no can and should be a healthy answer to life’s demands. Join me in keeping a balance between “yes” and “no.” All while allowing your commitments during the holidays to be reasonable so you can focus on the essentials, like your faith, family, friends, and good health.
What Does the Bible Say About Saying No
The Gospel frees us from needing to please everyone and to live up to the standards of others. Instead, we are freed to focus on living to please God. Jesus has already conquered our sinful desires to try to be saviors to and for others. And even more so, your identity is not in what you do for the Lord, but what the Lord has done for you.
Matthew 5:37: Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
2 Timothy 1:7: For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Ephesians 5:15-17: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
When to Say No
In order to know when it is time to say no, you need to take a good, hard look at your priorities. What do you value most in life? Your relationship with God? Family? Time with friends? Your time should be a reflection of your priorities.
Time and energy are too precious to overexert yourself. We can’t do it all and do it well, but we can choose to get our priorities straight. Saying no to one thing can open up your life to something way better that aligns with your priorities.
While saying yes is wonderful and has its place, there is always a time to say no. It’s important to understand your priorities and know when “no” has its place.
How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty
If you can never say no without feeling guilty afterward, you probably have a hard time prioritizing your needs over the needs of others. Acknowledge that it is impossible to please everyone in your life and that you have to draw the line somewhere. There is a way to say no without the burden of shame and guilt. You have to arm yourself with tools that allow you to say no without feeling guilty.
I think the first step is to practice saying the word no. The more you say “no,” the easier it will become, although, it shouldn’t necessarily become a habit. You can even just practice saying it to yourself. It really doesn’t require a long and lengthy explanation. And if you are being honest, the person on the receiving end more often than not will accept it with understanding.
Create Healthy Boundaries
When we stretch ourselves thin, we’re not helping anyone. Taking on too much leaves zero time for you or your relationship with God. How can you really be there for others if you aren’t prioritizing what matters most in your life? Saying no is setting boundaries so you can show up in a meaningful way. Say it, be assertive yet courteous.
Know your limits and respect them. Simplify and be content. You need to work on projects that you love. Setting boundaries will help reduce stress, make you happier, and actually allow you to say yes more effectively.
Don’t Answer Right Away
Before answering a request, let the asker know that you will need to get back to them. First affirm the request but don’t answer right away. Let the person asking know you are grateful for the request. It is perfectly fine to say, “I will have to check my schedule,” or “I have to ask my spouse,” before giving a final answer. Waiting to give an answer is probably the easiest way on your journey to saying no.
Sit with your priorities. Pausing before answering will allow you to gain some clarity on whether or not what is being asked of you is manageable in this season of life.
Pray for Wisdom
Seeking God’s wisdom is critical to know what to do with requests. We must practice mindfulness and pray for wisdom. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts as well as the hearts of those who make requests of us. Praying before a quick yes or no will save us from having to pull back on our word.
Ask God to help you with your decision and your schedule. He is always faithful to answer even if it is not what you expect. Trust in His providence that He is guiding every step.
“Dear Lord, I have overexerted myself and need your direction. Please give me wisdom. What would you like me to fill my schedule with?”
Even though it will be uncomfortable at first, because it goes against your people-pleaser self, you will be so much more joyful. And remember to make your no’s, no and your yes’s, yes.
**Verses used in this post were taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible Translation.