Learning to say NO is extremely important.
Although we talk a great deal about saying YES to ourselves and to God in this community, learning to say NO and mean it is a crucial part of the journey. Writer, motivational speaker and radical Jesus lover Bob Goff reports he “quits something every Thursday” because he understands saying no to distractions and detours is an integral part of choosing his best yes.
As I watch the world around me and talk to my fellow sojourners, I see how many of us struggle with saying no. Setting appropriate boundaries, building healthy relationships and choosing how to use our time wisely is impossible without liberal use of the word NO.
Here are a few brave ways to use the word NO:
No is a complete sentence. Many of us feel compelled to justify our choice to say no, as if we are not entitled to say no unless we have a detailed excuse. Some of us find ourselves performing tasks we didn’t have time or energy to take on simply because we couldn’t quickly come up with a good reason to refuse when we were asked. I can’t count the number of volunteer jobs I was invited to do at church or school over the past two decades where I scrambled to explain the minute details of my busy life to justify to the asker why I was refusing their offer, as if I was begging for their approval. I wanted them to like me, respect me and understand why I was making the choice, when really they just wanted to finish filling out their forms. In most cases, they didn’t care why I couldn’t do it and were ready to move on to the next person on their list. Making excuses is not necessary or helpful in most cases and there are very few people to whom I owe an explanation.
Repeat after me, just say no. In many cases, no is a complete sentence.
“No, I am not fine.”
My daughter recently shared with me her frustration about her living conditions. The college suite she shares with five other girls was chaotic and messy. She was overwhelmed by the disarray and clutter and it was contributing to her feeling scattered. We talked about her options and counted how many days were left until the end of the semester. Several days later, she reported an encouraging turn of events. She had communicated her sense of frustration to her roommates and shared with them how the state of their home was impacting her ability to focus on her schoolwork and her overall mental health. She let them know which things were not working for her and asked for their help. Because she let them know it was important to her, they all chipped in and made some needed changes, cleaning up the suite and talking about what each of them hoped for going forward. If she had continued to keep her growing resentments to herself, her circumstances would have been unlikely to change.
Simply put, other people can’t read our minds, so we must ask for what we need.
“No, that is not ok.”