3 Reasons to Say No

I spent an hour with twenty women last week discussing our over-stuffed lives. When asked why we are afraid to say NO, there was open admission of obligation and guilt driving overbooked schedules and overwhelmed hearts. It’s as if there’s a voice inside our heads compelling us to do more, more, more; as if somehow we believe doing more makes us more - more valuable, more loved, more successful, more of a mother, or more of a friend. 

I asked those ladies to look the person next to them dead-square in the eyes and say, “You have permission to say no.”

So, my dear reader-friend, why don’t you go ahead and find a mirror (or turn on your phone’s selfie camera setting) and declare these same words to yourself: “I have permission to say no!”

There. You have permission. And if you forget it at some point in the future, repeat the exercise. 

Before I go any further, I want to clear up any confusion: I’m not coming to you as an expert on this. I’m coming to you as a friend in the trenches with you - someone figuring this out right along beside you. But there’s strength in numbers, right? 

Here’s what’s motivating me to find the courage to say “NO” a little more often:

  1. A joyful no is better than a grumpy yes. We’ve all said yes with our mouths while saying no with our attitudes. It shows up in venting to others before or after whatever the commitment was. And even if it doesn’t show up in venting, it makes us irritated and tired. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather receive a joyful no from a friend than a grumpy yes any day. A joyful no is often a completely appropriate response. Some yeses are hard and necessary, but with some intention, prayer, and some awareness, they too can become a much more positive yes. 
  2. No can still be nice. Maybe we hate saying “no” because we envision it being a short, curt, answer. That’s simply not necessary. Saying “no” sometimes requires a few additional words. Here are a few phrases I’ve found helpful:
    • “That sounds fun! Unfortunately, I’m already overcommitted, so I need to pass this time.”
    • “I really wish I could jump in, but I’m buried in other projects this week. Keep me posted on how it goes!”
    • “What a neat opportunity! Unfortunately, that falls on family night so I need to say no.”
  3. Every no is actually a yes. Think about it. If we say “no” to something, we automatically say “yes” to something else. Consider the above statements: the first is saying “yes” to not compromising current commitments, the second is saying “yes” to uninterrupted family time, and the last is saying “yes” to meeting the demands and deadlines of projects already in motion. Your “no” to something may be a “yes” to a nap, or a “yes” to going to bed on time, or a “yes” to keeping some basic sanity in your life. 
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
— Annie Dillard

Now, this is a touchy subject, and truthfully, I think the pendulum swings from the pursuit of Biblical rest back to just making time for our own ideas of a good time without us knowing it. I’ve watched people “boundary” their way right out of things Scripture is so clear on, right into unreasonable work schedules or hobbies that consume every waking moment. If we aren’t careful, we can start cutting out everything that feels inconvenient or uncomfortable. That’s not what this is about. But let’s assume that’s not happening here.

Let’s assume we are just wanting to reign in the crazy; to tame the chaos; to turn down the volume on the demands for our time just a tad. By doing so, we create all kinds of space to say YES to the things that really matter most. 

Join the conversation by commenting below: What will saying “No” free you up to say “Yes” to this week?