The Art of Saying “No”

I think many of us are taught as Christians that we need to follow-up our faith with action; however, sometimes we become so action-oriented we forget why we are doing what we are doing. It is easy to find that we have joined one too many ministries or agreed to one too many projects and are overburdened by our commitments. We say “yes” every time someone asks us to participate or we feel guilty when no one says “yes,” so we jump in to fill the gap. We become the “face of the church” because we are everywhere doing everything. It is great to volunteer or to lead ministries, but we need to learn to do it in a prayerful and reasoned way.

I wrote an article a while back about energy-drainers. They are the things we place in our way that stop us from reaching our goals. Saying yes to every ministry opportunity can create obstacles to following the plan God has placed in front of us. I think that God calls us into certain areas—these are the things that we are most passionate about. Laurie Beth Jones (1996) challenges us to identify those things that excite us, anger us, and call us into action. They are the things that, when we pray, we find the Holy Spirit is leading us to commit our time and our energy. All the other things are nice to do, but they may not be the things that relate to the mission God has placed on our heart.

Learning to say “no” when asked to serve in church leadership or to volunteer for the next event may be difficult for some of us. We have all heard the, “pray about it and let me know” line which we often interrupt to mean—“just say yes.” And so we do, because we don’t want to disappoint or appear uncharitable. We must, however, actually take time and pray. We need to ask God to show us if this fits with what we have heard he is asking us to do individually. We need to ask if this is something that will extend or broaden our ministry and not deter us from the path head. Sometimes we need to say, “No” and do it unapologetically.

I found myself in this dilemma and I realized that having said yes to leadership of a ministry, for all the wrong reasons, was draining my energy. I became frustrated that I did not have the insight or ability to lead. I began to spend hours trying to get better at that position while neglecting what I am supposed to be doing—studying and writing. I found myself with massive headaches and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was frustrated because “I” couldn’t make things happen. I had said “yes” even though I knew the right answer was “no.” So I finally said, “I can’t do this. It isn’t what God set on my path.” It was hard. I’m sure it was disappointing and frustrating for others to receive the message, but I know it is the right thing. How do I know? I woke up today for the first time wanting to write and excited to finish my class work. I feel inspired and ready to burst with energy. I know I am where I need to be and doing what I need to be doing.

What have you said yes to that should be a no? What do you need to back out of so that you can focus on your personal mission and vision statements? What obstacles are draining your energy? Are you ready to get back on the path you see for your life and let go of those things that don’t fit? Pray about it and when you see the answer—yes or no—go with it!

“The Lord will always lead you.” Isaiah 58:11

Jones, L.B. (2006) The path: creating your mission statement for work and for life, Hyperion Press, NY, New York

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