Learning to Say No

Dear Friends,

Jason and I have a niece who is 19 months old.  One word that she can say very clearly is "No!"  It's a word that toddlers soon learn.  Yet, for many of us, something happens in our growing up years which makes saying "No" very hard.  At least, it has been for me.

Some would say that "Sorry" is the hardest word, but I have actually found the word "No" much harder!

It has only been in recent years that I've been able to say "No" more.  This was once I understood why I had such difficulty with the word.

I have grown up within a strong church culture where there was an emphasis on serving others.  The acronym 'J-O-Y' was often referred to when I was growing up - at least I felt that it was -  it was a constant reminder that Jesus came first in my life, then Others, and finally Yourself.  But I was so caught up in making sure that others came before me that I actually didn't have the resources left to look after me.  This is not a healthy life-style as I learnt to my detriment in my twenties. 

Yes, my relationship with God is my number one priority and rightly so.  When my relationship with him is as it should be I am then able to give of myself to others in a way that is good and right.  Having a right relationship with God also means that there is space to take care of myself, without being selfish about it.  If I don't take care of and show myself love then I am in no position to be able to show care and love to others as God commands of each of us. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’" (NLT)   When God is Lord of my life and when I take care of myself within the parameters of my relationship with him, then I am able to love and serve others. 

When someone asked something of me I would never say no because my belief was that I should always be willing to do for others.  I would always give a yes answer because I was a people pleaser.  I sought the approval of others and one way I sought this was through doing whatever was asked of me.  I remember on one occasion saying no, but then feeling so guilty afterwards that I actually went back to the person and changed my answer to yes!

This is not a great way to live, and it's not the kind of life Jesus wants for any of us.  It makes for a miserable, unsatisfying life.  If we live like this we can become very resentful towards others because we are just trying to do too much and for all the wrong reasons.  If we are always saying yes to others we have less time and energy for the things we would really like to do. Jesus set the example of serving others but not serving in such a way that it was detrimental to his own self.  Jesus only said yes to the things his Father wanted him to do.  He knew exactly what his Father wanted him to do because the two of them shared a close relationship.  He was therefore able to say no to anything that was not his Father's plan for him.

My inability to say no was all based on faulty thinking and wrong motives and once I realised this I was able to do something about it.

When we know that God loves us and we have his approval just because he created us and loves us we don't need to seek the approval of others by always saying yes to their requests.  Paul had learnt this as we see from Galatians 1:10 "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." (NLT) 

When we know that God created us with a plan and purpose we understand that we can best serve God and others by using our God-given gifts to bless and encourage others. "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) 

We experience more joy when we do what God has created us for.  It makes for a far more fulfilling and satisfying life when we follow God's plan for us.  We have the time and energy for the things he wants us to do.  In John 10:10 Jesus said "I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]." (AMP)

Once I understood this things I was able to say no when it was right to say no and I was also able to say yes to those things that were in line with what God planned for me.

To Think About:
Do you find it difficult to say "No" to people?  Why do you think this might be?

What do you think would help you to say "No" when necessary?

What difference would it make to your life if you learned to say "No" sometimes?



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