Peace family, do you struggle with saying, “no” to others?
It seems like this is a discussion that has come up with many of my friends lately. A lot of times as Christians, we can feel like making healthy boundaries is selfish, but they are essential if we are going to live healthy lives. It can be very hard, but there are many situations where saying “no” is actually the most loving response. A few examples:
No… I will not give in to your tantrum, because I don’t want you to grow up thinking that the world owes you something, that you can be selfish, or that you can control others with your emotions.
No… I will not allow your treatment of me with such little value or respect to alter the way that I see myself, as a valued child of God.
No… I will not change the plans that I have already made because you are in a habit of piling extra work onto me at the end of the work day, without considering my needs or feelings.
Granted, when we say “no,” we don’t need to state all of those things, and often, we probably shouldn’t. There are kind and unkind ways to say, “no,” and the Bible does say, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27) However, just like standing up to a bully in grade school usually earns you his respect and his choice to leave you alone in the future, your “no,” is a powerful tool. It shows respect for yourself, and it makes your “yes” more meaningful.
Sometimes we need to pray and learn how to say “no,” even to good things, so that we can do instead what is best, and not become worn out by endless options. When I am not sure about something someone asks me to do, or even something fun that I am invited to, I try to pray before I give a response. People are often fine with you saying, “I need a day to think about this, but I will get back to you.” When someone asks you to do something and you aren’t sure, if you start out with “no,” it is SO much easier to change your answer to, “Yes, I can do that after all,” than if you say “yes” to something that you can’t or shouldn’t do, and then try to change your answer to a “no.” When that happens, you can become resentful towards someone for using you, when really, you haven’t done anything to protect yourself.
We do need to be willing to keep communication clear, and a good tactic is to give someone options, for example, saying, “Yes, I can give you a ride to the meeting, but no, you will need to find someone else to take you home, because I already have another commitment.” It takes work and can be scary to be clear with people, but it shows respect for ourselves, and respect for others, too.
(*This is also not an excuse for you to be selfish or unkind to others. Examine your life. Are you making unreasonable demands of anyone? Do you allow others to say “no,” to you, or do you react with anger, defensiveness, or ignoring/belittling their wishes, feelings and thoughts? Are you withholding something from someone who is vulnerable, whom you really do have a responsibility towards? But those are questions for another blog.)
Finally, there is one person that we should always say “yes” to: God. Sometimes he calls us to do hard things, or to accept difficult circumstances, and it can be very painful. However, there are two things to remember; 1) we can at least know the basics of what God wants by reading the Bible and obeying it, and 2) unlike people, God never asks us to do things for selfish reasons. He is a good authority, and everything he tells us to do is out of love and will cause us to grow and become more like him. He is trustworthy, he is faithful, he is patient, and he always deserves our “yes,” even when it takes us a while to give it to him. Anyway, just a few thoughts from your friendly, neighborhood Kat.