The Art of Learning to Say ‘No’

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong. Matthew 5:34-37 MSG

Do you feel guilty when you tell someone ‘no?’  Or do you give someone a list of reasons why you’re not able to say ‘yes’ to their request?

As Christian women, we were raised to be courteous, polite, giving, and gracious. Somewhere along the line, we took that to mean that we’re to accept every request ever made. It’s left many of us feeling overwhelmed and burned-out.

Saying no stirs up a lot of guilt, awkwardness, anxiety, and fear of judgement from others.

We’ve been raised to believe that saying no is selfish and self-centred.

As a recovering people-pleaser and over-giver myself, I’ve experienced negative effects of being afraid to say ‘no’. I’ve been afraid to ask clients for fees even though I’ve fulfilled my end of our agreement. I’ve changed my schedule to accommodate others, even though it’s a huge inconvenience to me. And I’ve even eaten foods I didn’t want so I wouldn’t offend people. After working with a coach and after much prayer, I’m learning how to overcome this stronghold.

What about you? What are some things that you’ve said ‘yes’ to when you really wanted to say ‘no?’

Negative Impact of Not Saying ‘No’ 

This pattern has such a negative impact on our overall health. As a result, we end up stuffing our feelings with food, instead of speaking out. Why? It’s one of the few things that we use to put us back in control. It’s instant gratification. (Ironically, we’re actually out of control.)

Not voicing our true feelings also causes a lot of stress in our bodies which can result in a variety of stress-related illnesses ranging from high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems.

If you have trouble saying no, consider this …

Importance of Saying ‘No’

Frees up time and mental energy so you can say ‘yes’ to what’s really important. How much of your time is spent doing things only because someone asked you, and not because you really wanted to. Consider this: You could be out of alignment with God’s desire for you because you’re afraid to say ‘no.’

It will simplify your life and give you clarity. Life is really simple, yet we make it complicated by doing a lot of things that God did not call us to do. Spend time with God and get clear on what He’s called you to do, then learn to say ‘no’ to the rest.

It will give you peace of mind and decrease stress. Are you stressed because you’ve overextended yourself again? Maybe you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. Learning to say ‘no’ will create so much peace in your life because your focus will be on one thing, and one thing only, and that is pleasing God.

It keeps you from sinning. Creating boundaries around ourselves—like saying ‘no’—are meant to protect us. It’s when we fail to implement these boundaries that we get into trouble.

The scripture below teaches us the importance of building boundaries around ourselves. Boundaries keep the bad things out of our lives and keep the good in.

“but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].” 1 John 1:7 AMP

It gives you focus. Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you feel like your life is on a perpetual merry-go-round and it feels like you can never get off? Saying ‘no’ will help you focus on what’s important while you learn how to leave the rest behind. Imagine waking up each day only having 3-4 items on your to-do list, and then ending your day with them completed. No distractions–no Facebook, no Candy-Crush, no unnecessary shopping or TV watching, or giving people your time who do not respect it. Does that sound empowering?

Say no to:

  • anything not in alignment with your values
  • anything that will sabotage your health and weight goals
  • the limiting beliefs that keep you stuck in the crazy cycle of losing and gaining weight
  • anything that steals your time and causes you to lose your focus
  • trying to please other people–focus only on what God thinks about you
  • obsessive weighing in on the scale or being hyper-focused on your weight
  • wasting time on social media sites, TV, gaming, or any time-suckers
  • blaming people
  • jamming your schedule with more to-do items than you know you have time for
  • giving your time to people who do not respect you or your time
  • foods that will keep you feeling sick and tired

Have a difficult time saying ‘no’? Try these strategies

1.  It can be difficult to say ‘no’ to someone. Instead, say, “let me pray about it”,  “let me think about it”, or let me check my schedule. This will keep you from making a rash decision that you may regret.

2.  Our nature is to underestimate how long something will take and overestimate our ability to do it. Whatever the request is, automatically double the time you think it will take, and then reconsider whether you really have enough time to do it.

3.  Practice saying ‘no’.  This is a skill that everyone has to learn. Some people are better at it only because they’ve practiced more. Start in non-threatening areas and then graduate to more challenging ones.

Learning to say ‘no’ is not selfish. In fact, it is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and others.

Take time today to hear the voice of God in your schedule and your commitments. Get clear on what He’s called you to do. Understand your assignment and purpose on this planet and use that as your guide to what you should, and should not do. How is God leading you? He wants to be part of all of your decisions so let him in today.

What will you say ’no’ to in  2017?



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