Last week, we looked at 4 Great Reasons to Say “No.” If you haven’t read that post yet, take a minute to go back and get the history before reading below.
Back? Okay. Just as there are some truly life-giving reasons for saying no, there are also a few that are actually holding us back. Which of these is most true for you?
- You’re Afraid
I’ve said no to so many things in my life that I was afraid of: sports, relationships, hamburgers. Yes, I was afraid of hamburgers. (It’s a texture thing.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to try things that initially scared me – sushi, hiking, speaking in front of hundreds of people – and in doing so, I’ve become much more clear about what I do and don’t want (see point 1 under 4 Great Reasons to Say “No”).
These days, when I say no, I ask myself: am I just afraid or is this simply something I don’t want to do? Am I unsure of the outcome and therefore holding back? Or do I know that the kindest thing for myself is to not go to that party at my ex-boyfriend’s house, even though all my friends will be there? Or to choose sleep instead of more and more productivity?
Increasingly, I’m learning that life is less about our actions and more about the posture of our hearts. We can do great things and say yes to shiny opportunities, but if our hearts are clogged up with pride and ambition, then the outcomes will be brought up short by that self-focus.
On the flip side, we can say no for good reasons (i.e. rest), or our no’s can be driven by fear and worry.
Are you saying no to a job opportunity or a new relationship because you’re not sure you can do it or because you’re afraid of the outcome?
I’m finding that to be so true in my dating life. Saying no seems easier than the potential for heartbreak. Every relationship I’ve been in has ended – that’s how it goes – so it seems easier to just say no and spare myself the pain.
But, when I think about my goals in life and acknowledge the fact that I really do want to share my life with someone, then I know I can’t say no. I can’t just be afraid and cut off relationships before they have potential to help or harm me. And the truth is, even with the ones that have ended, there are beautiful things that have risen out of the dust – peace, potential for growth, and, more than anything else, a better understanding of myself.
- You’re Withholding from Others
As noted in last week’s post, saying no in a mature way requires vulnerability. It means acknowledging who you are and articulating your needs and wants.
But saying no can also be a means of self-protection. When you say no enough times, those no’s become like bricks, building a wall between yourself and other people.
The same is true with God, when we say no to time with him because we’re “too busy, tired, ashamed, etc.,” we build that wall higher and higher.
Instead of withholding and self-protecting, let’s evaluate when we should be saying yes. This takes discernment. Even when we think someone may be “safe,” there’s still risk involved. I get it. It’s so hard to be vulnerable.
But there’s so much upside to saying yes to people. Life is so much better shared. Just learn when to hold onto your no’s and when to give out your yes’s. Discover what breathes life into you and the people around you.
- You’ve Lost Your Drive
As human creatures, we live on inertia. If we’re out of the habit of exercising, for instance, the hardest thing is to skip the snooze button and simply put on our running shoes.
We don’t have to wait until we have all the answers or have figured out the master plan. That’s laughable, right? Because we know we’ll be waiting forever. Even though getting started is hard, don’t say no. Say yes to the “next thing.” Walk through the open door, and you’ll find that the path will open up before you, step by step.
If you’re lacking motivation, ask, and you will receive.
You can try this exercise I’ve found helpful when I’m tempted to just give up and say no: picture the happiest, best version of yourself. Where are you? Who is with you? What are you doing?
Now, think about what you need to do to get there. Who do you need to surround yourself with? What pursuits do you need to go after? What practices do you need to place in your life? What opportunities do you need to say yes to?
Now, go and do.
- You’re Waiting for Perfection
Sometimes we say no because we’re waiting for something better. Whether it’s a job or a relationship, it’s easy to think that something better is around the corner or that we need to wait for circumstances to be perfect before we say yes to them.
The truth is that life is not black and white In fact, it’s a gloriously multi-colored adventure that includes some patches that are just plain gray and murky and confusing.
Rather than getting lost in the gray, these days I’m trying to find grace in it. Instead of always wishing I had a clearer picture of the future or holding back until I’m certain the guy I’m dating is “the one” (all you married folks have my permission to giggle at that one), I’m learning to say yes even when the outcome is unclear or when I feel unprepared.
Because the truth is that I am unprepared, but I’m being equipped along the way. I’m not perfect, but God is smoothing out my rough edges through refining relationships and challenging situations. He’s giving me the grace I need at work, at home, and even in my own body – to accept the imperfections, to know who I am, and to let my yes’s be yes and my no’s be no’s.
What are some other reasons you’ve said “no?” Did your no’s bring you freedom, or did they hold you back?