The Hardest Word You Will Ever Say

It's one of the easiest words in our language, yet it's the hardest to say. Yes, I’m talking about no.

If we all knew the right time to say no then we would all know when no was the right thing to say. Does that make sense?

Saying no isn’t as easy as it seems. Let’s face it, some personalities have a hard time saying no. Mary and I are two of them! We aren’t talking about saying no to unimportant things. We are talking about saying no to good things, even great things.

How about saying no to an opportunity to feed the homeless? How about saying no to serve on the board of a battered women’s shelter? How about saying no to going on a mission trip or helping someone in need? These people, these opportunities, need someone to say yes to them—to help them, serve them, love them. I would like to revise the first line in this post: Learning to say no isn’t the hardest word to say, it’s just about impossible!

The reason it’s so difficult to say no is the things we are being asked to do or get involved with are good, worthwhile and compelling things. When someone asks me to do something or volunteer for something, I find myself just saying yes without knowing what I’m doing. It’s almost a reflex. Here’s what I have found. The more I say yes, the more it leads to stress; and the more I say no, the more it leads to slow.

I personally had to learn that when I say yes to everyone, I am saying no to someone, simply by default. The reason being "the law of unlimited resources." We think we can do it all! Take a drinking glass for example; it has a capacity. Once the capacity is reached, you can no longer put any more into it without causing it to overflow. The same is true with your life. How do you know when to say no? What’s the protocol? What are the steps or process?
 

Over the years I have found the following three guidelines to be extremely helpful when needing to say no.

1. Know Your Season
If you know your season of life you can determine how to spend your time. There are four broad seasons of life.

  • Single
  • Married
  • Married with Kids
  • Single with Kids

Are you single? Great, you have more time for what you want to do. Are you married with three kids? Great, you have more time to give your family. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT. Live your season!

2. Know Your Priorities
When values are clear decisions are easy. If you don’t know where you are going or what your priorities are then “yes” will rule your life. Knowing your priorities will help you “no” things that are not. I like what C.S. Lewis says, “Don’t be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn’t do. Each must do his duty ‘in that state of life to which God has called him.’

3. Know Your Limits
All of us have our limits. The problem is I often want to push beyond them. I think I can do more than I was designed for. I push beyond my limits and get rewarded for it to later return and challenge those limits again. Busyness for God does not equal healthiness for your soul.

When I am asked to give my time to a project or cause, I am approached by someone who has the charisma of a movie star, the passion of a motivational speaker and they are asking not only for a good cause but a great one! When you are presented that wonderful opportunity to do something great and everything inside you wants to say yes, then pause... take a deep breath...and delay your answer so you can process the request with a proper perspective.

1. Take Some Time
When someone asks for your time don’t give an immediate answer. If they push you for a quick answer then tell them no.

2. Talk It Over
Have a conversation with your spouse and agree on a decision together.

Questions: 

  • How easy is it for you to say no?
  • Is there something on your calendar that you need to say no to right now?
  • What is it?