How often do we hear that it’s ok to say “no”? I hear it all the time. But should we always look for a reason to say no?
For most of my life, it was so hard for me to tell anyone no. It didn’t really even matter what it was. Do you want to go to this restaurant? Sure. Can you watch my children? Of course. Can you volunteer? I guess so. I was worn out from doing everything for everyone. It felt like saying no was admitting that I couldn’t “do it all”. I was a single mom of 4, working full time for a several years. Even still, I had a fear of disappointing anyone. It was exhausting and I found it impossible to keep up.
I began hearing this phrase that seemed so foreign to me. “It’s ok to say no.” It had such a wonderful appeal. I began saying it here and there. When I was busy or if I didn’t want to do something or if I was tired. The more I said it, the easier it was. And I liked it. Do you want to get together for coffee? Sorry I’m busy. Can you watch my child? I really need to get my house clean. Can I come hang out? I’m too tired today. It freed me up so much just by saying no. I said no for years. Anytime someone asked me to do anything, I immediately searched for a reason to say no. It satisfied for a while, but left me feeling empty and without purpose. Occasionally I didn’t have an excuse and would do a favor for someone. Then I had friends and family reminding me that “it’s ok to say no”. It was always said by well meaning people who knew I was busy, but it started to carry a weight of its own. I remembered that I like to help people. Now when I did help someone, people were telling me that I shouldn’t. That I should’ve said no. I was torn between being inconvenienced and helpful, or having my life simple while something was missing.
Then I started thinking about what God calls us to do. He doesn’t call us to live selfishly. He calls us to be His hands and feet. Jesus spent His time with people. Healing them. Feeding them. Teaching them. Was I living like Jesus? Nope. Not even a little bit. I realized that it’s ok to say yes, but within reason.
I learned to choose my yeses wisely. I am now a married mother of 7 and Nonna to a new granddaughter, so there are many people who already fill my time. I have the right and good reason to tell people no and most would understand. But who am I helping and what am I teaching my children? I decided to weigh new and future requests with a few questions.
- Is it moral? I believe that the Bible is the truth. While I know and love many people who live lifestyles contrary to God’s word, I cannot be a part of it. I will not babysit for someone to spend the night with a boy/girlfriend. I will not help someone acquire drugs or anything illegal. I love them regardless of their choices, but I will not be involved.
- Is it safe? I usually have a car full with my own family, so I can’t always drive extra children. I can’t help with anything that could cause me to be injured or liable. My family is first and they need me to be in good health.
- Is it going to cost me more than it costs the asker? I am willing to help people but I no longer feel the need to carry anyone else’s weight. If someone wants a free babysitter every week to go out socially I’m gonna say no. Sometimes people don’t want to work hard and are looking for someone to carry their weight or enable them. Sorry, I’m not the one.
- How will it affect my husband and children? Being a wife and mom is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I don’t like to make commitments that cause them to sacrifice something without discussing it first. My sister wanted me to be with her during her labor, delivery, and hospital stay. I discussed it with my husband and he was happy to take care of the family while I was gone for 3 days. A while later, someone else asked. Our family had things going on and my husband asked me not to commit. I respected his feelings and said no. I let my friend know right away and she was able to find another support person in plenty of time.
I’ve gone from saying yes to everything to saying no to everything to finding a balance. My children are able to learn the value of helping others. They also see the strategy behind the decision to say yes or no. I hope they are able to grow up a step ahead and with a little more understanding than I had. Some of them are willing to help out and others not so much. I’m not concerned because they are all so loving. I know it will come with maturity, reminders, and training them up in the way they should go.
Next time someone asks you for a favor, weigh it out and don’t overcommit. But if you can be a blessing, its ok to say yes.