5 Bits of Encouragement for the Woman Learning to Say No
By Kristine Brown, Crosswalk.com
For some of us, it’s the most difficult word to utter aloud. This powerful word can bring much-needed relief—to our schedule, our daily lives, and even our attitudes. We know this from experience, but for some reason, we struggle to use it. So we keep practicing.
We continue learning how to say no.
The single most impactful lesson I’ve learned in my journey of faith is how to say no. To discern God’s best for me amidst all the things I want to do. It’s a nugget of wisdom more precious than rubies, like Solomon wrote about in Proverbs 8:11. (And one I secretly wish I’d found sooner.)
It hasn’t been easy. Still isn’t. I’ve fought hard for each no, and I’m committed to the work, because learning to say no will not only draw us closer to God. It also causes a ripple effect of good things that can be felt by the people around us. For those of us who love to help and serve, learning to say no means making time to honor the Lord and follow him alone. So even though it takes intentional effort on our part, the fruits are totally worth it.
If you’re a woman who’s learning to say no today, take heart. Turning down a request doesn’t mean giving up opportunities or letting others down. We can reframe the way we view our “no” in order to gain clarity on God’s divine assignments for us.
Here are a few tidbits of encouragement for you as you learn the value of your no:
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1. Think About the Potential of Each No
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
The longing to say yes when someone asks for our help comes from deep, loving care for the people in our lives. We want others to be happy, and if we can be a part of that, even better! So as we practice discerning the right time to say no, let’s agree not to condemn ourselves. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). God chose us and created us with gifts and traits we need to walk in his will for our lives.
However, within that loving care lies the struggle to identify which assignments are ours. We see a blank space on the calendar and assume we have extra time to devote to one more task. But what if we viewed that blank space as something more? Something sacred?
Friend, leaning into God and spending quiet time with him helps us discern his voice. So before you say yes to that thing that will fill your blank space, think about the potential of saying no. Could it mean a special time in prayer—just you and God? Or maybe quality time with a loved one who would benefit from your undivided attention?
As we let our nos make more room for God to speak life into our busy lives, we will, in turn, become better at learning when to say yes.
2. Remember, God Has Great Plans for You—and They Don't Look Like Hers
“A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30 NLT)
Comparison has been an ongoing battle in my life. From the time I learned about applying makeup and styling my hair, I began looking at other girls and sizing up the person I saw in the mirror. As I grew older, the comparison changed to fit each season of life. Comparing my worth as a mom was one of my biggest spiritual battles. I often felt like I was doing it wrong. I thought if I did more, gave more, and got involved more, I would be a better mom. I bought into that lie from the enemy for many years.
Comparison can cause us to veer out of our lane. We see someone else doing it, and we want to follow their lead. They’re successful, after all. They appear to have it all together— the picture-perfect home and family. So we forgo the benefits of saying no. We go against what we know is right for us in this season because someone else’s journey looks more appealing.
Let me encourage you today, if, like me, you’ve been lured by comparison. It is a trap. Don’t fall for it. Her life is not better, just different. God’s plans for you are more amazing than you can imagine! Let your nos open the door to the unique possibilities before you, and watch God do a mighty, unique work in and through you.
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3. Understand That You Don't Have to Explain Why. Let That Go.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
Just last week, a former boss called to say hello. I’d worked for her before, and she had a job opening she wanted me to consider. I knew in my heart I couldn’t physically do the work right now because of health concerns. So I launched into this long explanation of why I had to say no. By the time I finished my story, I hadn’t made my answer clear. I’d also wasted a good bit of her time trying to justify my why.
I’ve always felt like if I could just explain, then I wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings with my no. My hope is this: if she understands why I have to say no, then we can still be friends. Although concern for her feelings is a good quality to have, we can learn to offer a gentle no without all the extras.
Keeping our answers succinct and uncomplicated doesn't mean we have to be abrupt, rude, or inconsiderate. God calls us to gentleness and kindness (Galatians 5:22-23). But when the idea of letting someone down causes a rapid heartbeat or anxiety on our part, it’s best to keep it short. Remember that with every no given in obedience to Christ, you are paving the way for someone else’s perfect yes.
4. Remember: Saying "No" Takes Practice.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)
If you stumble and say yes to another task, project, or event you know, deep down, you can't healthily manage, don't give up. Don't lose heart. And don't be afraid to be bold and try saying no the next time an opportunity isn't the right fit for you.
As a recovering perfectionist, I tend to expect a lot of myself. Once presented with a lesson, I want to master it and move on to the next thing. (It’s the drive within me to be a star student.) So when I fall back into old habits like saying “yes” to every opportunity, I get down on myself and want to give up.
Too many yeses can lead to exhaustion or burnout, leaving us battle-weary. But when we say yes to Jesus, he will provide. We can't gloss over Philippians 4:13, which reminds us of the source of our strength. Jesus is right here with us, right now, giving us the strength we need to keep going. Even when we feel defeated.
No matter how much I know in my heart an opportunity isn’t for me, saying no is still difficult. For us go-getters, recovering perfectionists, and dependable star students, stumbles happen often because we try often, are present often, and, well, say yes often. So if you find yourself stumbling along in your journey toward freedom from constant yeses, don’t give up. Tomorrow brings renewed grace to start again.
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5. Accept That the Momentary Discomfort of Saying No Will Lead to Lasting Rewards.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 ESV)
Whether we’re new to the idea of saying no or have been practicing for some time, there’s this awkwardness that comes with each no. Even if saying no doesn't feel inherently wrong, and we can affirm within ourselves that our no is the right answer, telling someone no is usually uncomfortable. It's especially uncomfortable when we must say no to close family, friends, coworkers, or bosses who consider us dependable, loyal, and hard-working. Saying no simply doesn't feel natural to us. But we must understand that true peace awaits when we get past the momentary discomfort.
It’s important to also note we should guard against getting carried away with our nos. We don’t want to miss the beauty God is creating all around us. Good boundaries can become barriers if they block us from fruitful relationships and community. So before each yes or no, let’s turn to the Lord and spend time in his presence. Going to him in prayer can keep us from spur-of-the-moment answers we might later regret.
God will guide our steps when we ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)
Let’s remember this truth always. May our nos be offered with sincere grace, and may every yes bring glory to God.