Saying no might be one of the hardest things you ever have to learn.
Personally, I used to think I wasn’t a people-pleaser. I would hear my Christian friends talking about their struggles with saying no, and I felt like I couldn’t relate.
But things have changed.
I’ve been inundated with various opportunities lately. I’m extremely grateful. But in this season of life, I’ve noticed that saying no is a struggle for me too. Worse, I sometimes feel anxious after I say no:
“Did I make the wrong decision?”
“Will they judge me?”
“Will they ever ask for my help again?”
The truth is, though, you simply can’t say yes to everything. You must learn how to say no. Paul tells us to “make the best use of time”(Ephesians 5:16). If you don’t prioritize your time, someone else will.
So how do you do this?
1) Affirm the request. Don’t start with “No.” First affirm the request. Let your inquisitor know you are grateful for the inquiry, and that you appreciate the ask.
Be encouraging. Smile. Be genuinely encouraged that they picked you. This will help build rapport and equity before you say no.
2) Pray for wisdom. James tells us to pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Few prayers do I pray more than this one. If an all-knowing God is down to give, then I’m down to ask.
Ask God to help you with your schedule. “God, please give me wisdom. What would you like to fill my schedule?” I find that over and over and over again when I ask God for wisdom, he is faithful to answer that prayer, and often through the wise counsel of others.
3) Say no firmly, but gently. Nothing can be worse here than ambiguity. More times than not, your listener is looking for a “Yes” or “No” answer. Give it to them. But be careful with coming off as off-putting or harsh. Let your words be gracious and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) as you gently say no.
4) Suggest someone else. If you know you can’t say yes but have in mind someone who might, suggest that person. In doing this, you are helping solve the problem, and serving the person who asked.
5) Remember why you said no. You shouldn’t feel bad about the no. Why? Because you should feel excited about the yes. If you have to say no to one thing, it’s because you have to say yes to something else. Steer your emotional energy in the direction of the yes, not the no.
6) Remember the gospel. You might feel tempted to feel discouraged. The temptation for people-pleasing may arise. You might be concerned of what others think of you. Don’t. Remember the gospel. Your identity is not in what you do for the Lord, but what the Lord has done for you.
7) Trust God’s Providence. If Ephesians 1:11 is true, then God is arranging all things that happen, including, of course, your decisions. This is something that our finite minds cannot fully comprehend. But after the decision is made, trust that God’s Providence is guiding your every step.
The gospel removes our longings to prove ourselves, to live up to the standards of others. Jesus has already won that for you. So say yes sometimes, and say no a lot. And don’t feel bad. Because as J. Oswald Sanders once said, “Every call for help is not necessarily a call from God, for it is impossible to respond to every need.”
Questions and Comments: Any other helpful pieces of advice for saying no? Post your comments below.