As soon as I hit send, I regretted it. I said yes to something I should have said no to. It’s not that I didn’t want to say yes – it’s that I didn’t have time for another project. I frequently tell myself to “give your best yes” (a play on the title of a book by Lysa TerKeurst), but I don’t always follow through. The fact is, it is hard to say no. Especially when you are turning down something you want to do or someone you love or don’t want to disappoint.
If you google “the gift of no” you will see many results – both Christian based and secular. Some of the former are based on God telling us no. Others are based on parents telling their children no. “No” is not a bad thing, so why do some of us feel guilty at the very thought of refusing a request? The reality is that we put too much pressure on ourselves. We think we have to say yes to everything because a) busy seems to be our end goal, b) we think it’s un-Christian to say no, and/or c) we don’t like it when others tell us no.
I know it can be frustrating when we ask someone to consider donating or volunteering and the response is instantly “I am not called to that” or an unauthentic “let me pray about that.” Don’t get me wrong – we should pray before we commit. Sometimes we have been praying and a request is an answer to prayer. When that happens, it’s easy to exclaim YES! Other times, we really do know that we are not called to something and we should be able to lovingly decline knowing that it is not our best yes. Or, at least, it is not the time for us to say yes due to other responsibilities we have in our lives at time. Our response, whether yes or no, must be sincere and from the Lord.
Before you say yes or no to a request, make sure it is something you have prayed about or commit to praying about it. Consider your other duties. Talk with your family, especially your spouse – if you have one. Don’t make commitments that you cannot keep up with. Sometimes, saying no is a gift – a gift that God gives you as a way to protect you. A gift that you give someone else as a way to protect them (even if you don’t know it). Oh, and before you make a request of someone, pray about that too. Be careful not to put someone in the position of having to tell you no unnecessarily. There are many ways to save ourselves and others frustration, despite the many demands we all have placed on us – and the demands we place on ourselves.