Nurturing Your No

knowing when to step away

For those of us working toward a Dream, toward something we believe God is calling us to pursue, busyness is always an obstacle.

But what happens when the busyness is not of our own making, but instead a result of what other people are asking of us? Are there ways in which this busyness is a form of bondage and we need to get free? Where do we draw the lines? How do we keep ourselves from being selfish?

Perhaps you don’t feel you have many demands on your time from others. But a quick run-through of the people in your life and all the ways you’re involved with them will probably reveal more than you realize. And often, we cross from the healthy place of loving and serving to the destructive place of getting sucked into others’ crises, or even their day-to-day, in a way that keeps us from pursuing the things we feel we’re supposed to be about. But how do you know when helping others is the very thing you’re supposed to be about?

Most people are inclined to either become people-pleasers to cause people to like or love them, or to become over-achievers to impress people and obtain their admiration.. We all have a tendency to see ourselves through the eyes of others and then take actions we probably shouldn’t be taking, to improve how others see us. We wrap our identity in the opinions of others and then busy ourselves making sure those opinions stay high.

### The dilemma

Often it’s easy to see our over-busy lives as a problem on a large scale, but when we get down into each individual request made of us, we can’t seem to find the reason or the courage to refuse.

So how do we figure out when to say yes and when to say no?

We are very aware that we are called to be self-sacrificing, and for many women, it’s in their very nature to do so. We understand the biblical instruction to think of others more highly than ourselves, and are often quite willing to put aside our own agendas to fulfill that command. We even understand that sometimes we are called to suffer. And we desire to be involved in the lives of the people we care about. So knowing when to say no to helping people, especially when the requested help is in an area where we excel or find enjoyment, is very difficult.

But we must find a balance between being part of a community where we love people well by using our gifts and talents to help them, and understanding when it’s too much and we need to step back.

While we know that we are to love and serve, we also must admit that logically we cannot say yes to everyone, all the time. We’re limited by time, by energy, and by finances in our ability to meet every request. Not only that, but sometimes people’s requests are mutually exclusive! (How many moms can relate to being asked for two mutually-exclusive things by two kids at the same time!) Sometimes saying yes to one person automatically means we’re saying no to someone else.

There will always be tasks that take time from the Dream we want to pursue and from living out our gifts. We can’t orient our lives completely around one purpose, or say no to anything that doesn’t align.

But we must also understand that while we may be asked to do a million different things, we are gifted and skilled to do particular things. The answer is not to always be about ourselves first and putting our own needs, wants, and desires above the needs of other people. It’s about getting strategic and intentional about the gifts we’ve been given and how to put ourselves to the best use. Rather than a scattershot, do-anything-that-anyone-asks-of-me approach, we’re finding the best ways to fill needs.

### Nurture your no

It’s time to nurture your no, making it stronger and healthier when it needs to show up.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when faced with a request:


Is this a true need? (Not a want? Not someone’s avoidance of their own responsibility?) 2.

Am I saying no because I’m simply exhausted by too many misplaced yeses? 3.

Is meeting this need truly the loving thing to do (in the person’s best interest), or simply what I think will make the person feel the most loved? (and I don’t want seem unloving!) 4.

Am I the only person who can meet this need? The most appropriate? (and not just the most available!) 5.

Does meeting this need actually require me to set aside my plan, or could it be done at a better time? 6.

Is there a different way I can meet this need that doesn’t take away from the work I’m called to do? (for example, paying someone else to do it) 7.

Do I recognize that I should say no, but I can’t seem to do it because of some fear? 8.

Am I perhaps being called to meet this type of need on a larger scale and I need to step back and get more strategic about it so I can help more people?

### Get at your heart

To answer these questions and understand the over-busyness that comes from not being able to say no, you need to take a hard look at yourself. You might be resenting other people for burdening you, taking advantage of you, or inconveniencing you, when actually there is some insecurity inside of you that's making difficult for you to say no because you're worried they will be displeased, or not love you, or not value you.

Often we want to be the one with the solution, the fixer, the person who can handle it all and can fill every need. For some of us saying no feels like weakness. It’s an admittance that we can’t handle everything that is thrown at us. And we hate that.

But we need to take some time to think about the call of God on our life, the time that He's giving us, the opportunity and gifts He's giving us. We’ve been given all of these things not to hoard them, but to put them to strategic use by freeing ourselves from the opinion of others and then offering ourselves to the world.

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