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

Managing Energy Drainers

Energy drainers are those things that distract an individual from reaching their goals (Collins, 2009).They may be short-term obstacles that we can handle for a brief period of time without derailing our progress. Other energy drainers may pull us way off track and require us to take specific steps to reduce the negative impact. That said, there are a few things that I have allowed to stop me from doing what I believe God has called me to do and I am slowly finding ways to stop letting these things derail my progress. Some of these will be quick fixes while others will take longer to accomplish and require more of a change in my behavior.

Finances

One of my primary goals is to reach financial security and to get my spending under control. The first step for me was to pray and then to seek out a program that would bring success. I have taken some pretty drastic steps to get the ball rolling, including holding a yard sale to get rid of things that I didn’t need and giving away pretty much everything else. I moved out of a large house into a manageable apartment that costs me a fraction of what I was spending. I am building up my savings for emergencies and have a plan to pay off my expenses. I am more deliberate in my regular giving. It will be a long slow process, but I truly believe this is what God is calling me to do today. And from this will come one more testimony about transformation that I can share with others.

Family and Friends

I have a great relationship with my daughter; however, I have a real tendency to drop everything to hang out with her when I should be focusing on writing or my other tasks.  And I have a bad habit of spending money that I have budgeted for bills or savings on spur-of-the-moment outings with my daughter or with friends. I used to claim it was “single mother syndrome” but really it was just neglectful planning.  I have found it necessary to set boundaries in my relationships—to say “no” even when my heart says “yes.” I am committed to the Dave Ramsey[1]  financial plan which means I have to make changes in my overall lifestyle. Part of that change includes setting new priorities while keeping the focus on reaching my long-term goals.

Emotions

I guess you could say that the primary energy drainer for me is fear and panic. The fear is a byproduct of my financial insecurity and it has kept me from moving forward. I have learned that the most positive thing I can do is stick with my budget plan and continue to pay down my debt without acquiring more debt. And I am working with a spiritual director as well as a healing minister who are helping me to see God’s plan instead of my plan. I cannot begin to explain the newfound peace I have discovered in my obedience to praying, writing, and talking with others.

Home

Ok—I will admit it. The TV probably is the largest energy drainer in my life. When I feel insecure about my ability to step into this new role of story teller and author or I am overwhelmed by my financial situation—I retreat to mindless TV. I may spend hours at a time watching TV and avoiding the world outside.  Additionally, TV is sometimes a crutch for not spending money on things with my daughter and so we will sit together watching movies or TV shows rather than going out. This obstacle also keeps me from being more physically active, which is not a good thing for someone trying to live a healthier lifestyle. For now I will work to set aside time to walk instead of watching an hour of TV in the evening. I am sure I won’t avoid TV completely; however, I do need to set boundaries in this area as well. This may be one of the harder areas for me and it could continue as an energy drainer and stressor if I don’t get it under control.

Reflection

I have found it is useful to identify things in my life that are keeping me from reaching my goals and to consider the changes I need to make in my life. Some of these things were not easy to confront, especially since it made me realize how much time I have wasted.  It also became apparent that I cannot make these changes on my own and that I need to be honest with people who I trust about the obstacles in my life. It is equally important to have people in my life that will hold me accountable and encourage my success. One step at a time, I move forward.

Reference

Collins, G. R. (2009) Christian coaching: helping others turn potential into reality. NavPress. Colorado Springs, CO

[1] Dave Ramsey provides Christian-based financial counseling and provides a strategy to help individuals achieve financial freedom. Refer to: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/