One of the Best Reasons to Say No
As a Recovering People Pleaser, I sometimes still have a difficult time telling you “no.” See, I like when you like me. It makes me happy when I make you happy. When I disappoint you, I disappoint me, too.
I’ve come a long way in the last decade or two. Back in the day, I would have told you “yes” to the detriment of my own health—physical, spiritual, emotional, relational. The fear of your disapproval overshadowed every potentially balanced decision I made. I was one terribly unbalanced girl.
Over the years, I have learned I cannot say “yes” to everything. In fact, I cannot say “yes” to most things. In order to maintain a well-balanced life, I must also maintain my ability to tell you “no” without carrying the residual guilt and fear that tends to accompany that word.
It’s been a slow process, but one that began with a brief meeting in a tiny office.
Several years ago, Jon and I needed to step down from our teaching/training positions at church. We had no doubt we were making the best decision. In a dozen ways over several months, God had been opening doors toward a new ministry in a different church. The problem was, if we resigned, we would be leaving two children’s ministry leadership positions vacant. And those vacancies would present a serious problem for the already volunteer-depleted children’s department. I didn’t know what to do.
Of course, I was concerned for the kids—who would teach them?
And for the other new teachers—who would train them?
But, mostly I was concerned for me. What would the pastors of our church think of us when we leave them scrambling to find our replacements? How could we possibly do add to their stress? What kind of servants are we?
(My People-pleasing brain would respond: “Bad, very bad. Bad, irresponsible and inconsiderate servants.” )
(This is the brain of a girl raised by perfectionist parents and baptized in the church of legalism.)
I carried the full weight of the responsibility for weeks—a disproportional amount of guilt, tempting me to remain planted smack dab in the middle of my current position, even though I was confident God was uprooting us to take a new position elsewhere.
After weeks of dreading and procrastinating and nursing a stressed-out tummy, I finally made an appointment with our Children’s Pastor to discuss our resignation. I sat in that tiny office, overwhelmed with grief (yes, grief) at the anticipated backlash. I feared she’d question my motives. My ability to hear God’s voice. My character. Maybe even my salvation. And of course, I was leaving her with the difficult job of finding someone to take our positions…Bad, bad servant!
I began with an apology and then an explanation. Then another apology. And then, I proceeded to defend our motives, our ability to hear God’s voice, our character. Finally, I assured her of our salvation. And then I think I apologized again. I probably cried.
Talk about exhausting.
And when I finally gave her an opportunity to respond, the most profound and liberating statement emerged from her lips:
“Sandy, I am confident that if God is leading you elsewhere, then He is already preparing the hearts of your replacements. If you do not leave, then the people God intends to fill your position cannot step up, because you will prevent them from doing so.”
Then she smiled warmly, embraced me sincerely, and said,
“There is no need to feel guilty. You are free. God’s blessings to you and Jon.”
Wow! I was free!
Free, not only from my leadership position, but also from the guilt. From the fear. From the false sense of responsibility to hold the entire children’s department (not to mention, the emotional well-being of the entire staff, every child, and oh-what-the-heck, might as well throw the parents in there, too) on my shoulders alone. Freedom not only for that moment, but also freedom for all future decisions.
It has been twelve years since that meeting, and I still draw on the wisdom of the Children’s Pastor every time I must tell you “no.”
So, what about you? Are you over-committed because you dislike being disliked?
Does the fear of telling someone “no” outweigh your ability to make good decisions?
Take it from this Recovering People Pleaser, don’t ever agree to commit your time, energy or money out of guilt. (I’m wagging my finger at you right now, in the most loving and compassionate way possible.) Allowing guilt and fear to force you into an unwise “yes” is a recipe for unbalance.
Need a good reason to say “no”? Here it is:
If you say “yes,” the person God intends to fill that position cannot step up, because you will prevent them from doing so. If God is leading you out, you must trust that He has already spoken to the person He intends to move in.
Pray for wisdom in every decision. And when you are confident God is leading you to say “no,” be equally confident that He is leading someone else to say “yes.”
This is beautifully stated… thank you!
There was a time that every call from my church was a call from God asking me to do something… if I could do it (i.e., capable of doing it), I always said “yes.” Then after years and years of this, I burnt out. It’s been a five-year recovery process. So I have learned that because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should say “yes.” Prayer helps me now determine what I should say “yes” to as my motives need to be appropriate and not self-serving. Hope that makes sense…
Thanks again for sharing a great life lesson.
Does that make sense to ME? Honey, I feel like I wrote the book on “every call from my church was a call from God.” That makes perfect sense. Glad to hear you are on the road to recovery.
One more thing (now that I’m fully awake!)… Jesus didn’t say “yes” to everyone’s request… some people asked for healing and instead He retreated to the mountains for prayer!
Well, as you might imagine, having been a pastor’s daughter in a denomination in which “faithfulness in the small things” was somehow twisted around by ME to mean I must always say “yes” and never quit anything.
Praise God I have grown in my understanding of grace and can actually make a decision fairly quickly when I feel it’s best to say no.
For years I had a huge issue with disappointing authority figures and I still have my moments but it’s not emotionally crippling as it once was.
And now sometimes I just say to myself, “I’m a grown up woman who has been through too much to turn myself inside out over whether I’ll teach a class on Wednesday nights or not! I can say “no” if I want to.” It works!
I meant to say…as you might imagine…blah, blah, blah, I can relate!
I can definitely relate. I am trying to mature out of that way of thinking, but it is hard. The fear that someone won’t like me is hard to overcome. Besides what if I need help from that person later and I said ‘no’ this time. They surely wouldn’t want to help me later.
That was very wise what that person told you. We should have that attitude. It is tough to say no but doing so preserves the value of our yes’s.