There are a lot of things in life you have to get used to saying no to.
“Do you want to try this vegan queso?”
“Dad, can we get a dog?”
“Pastor, can we do a Michael Jackson number for our Easter service?”
And then there is the inevitable moment when we all pretend we’re not home when a salesperson is cold calling in our neighborhood.
But those things are silly, somewhat easy scenarios to say no to.
What about when someone asks you to do something you know you could do, especially when it is someone you know or care about, but you feel overwhelmed at the thought of saying yes? Or you’re torn on what you should do?
Here are a couple of steps to walk through when you think the answer to someone’s request may be a no from you.
1. Reflect your current lifestyle.
One of my favorite books on decision-making is The Best Yes by Lysa Teurkyst.
In the book, she describes a scenario where a young woman she was mentoring needed a place to stay while she gathered her bearings and was able to save some money for a time. She adored this girl and considered letting her stay with her and her family.
She asked herself…
Could this fit physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally?
Being a mom to five kids, meeting a book deadline, growing a ministry, and a few other family responsibilities led her to realize that she didn’t have the emotional resources to be a kind, loving, and God-honoring host to an extended stay houseguest in that time of her life.
Even with the best intentions, we can say yes to people for the wrong reasons.
I know firsthand what it is like to have lived with a trusted mentor and her family who should not have said yes in the season they were in. It was a painful experience and now we don’t have the relationship we once did (or much of a relationship at all anymore).
I wish she would’ve said no.
Even if your situation isn’t as “life-altering” as this one, think about what you have going on in your life. Do you have the physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial resources to add a request to your list?
Remember, every new yes should be a ‘no' to something else. If you are called to say yes to something, what do you need to remove from your plate to compensate?
2. Realize that ‘no’ can be a blessing.
If you begin to reflect on your lifestyle and realize that it’s not the best time for you to accommodate someone’s request, you’ve got your answer.
It can be easy to think you’re being a “bad” Christian by saying no.
Christians are expected to be selfless and do nice things.
But the Bible is very clear that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17)
Be honest with God in asking if this is something He wants You to do. He’ll let you know.
You saying no can open the door for God to work in that person’s life another way—whether the request is large or small.
Maybe saying no to that young woman gave her an opportunity to live with a wonderful, God-loving roommate who was able to meet her emotional needs and build her up in her faith.
Don’t just say yes because you feel bad. You running on a half-tank of gas isn’t going to do anyone any favors. Let someone who is capable get the job done right.
3. Be honest and kind.
Like anything else, practice makes perfect.
If you’re a people pleaser like me, you’ll want to explain yourself and lighten the load.
But you don’t owe any sort of explanation.
You can be both kind and firm. You don't have to be one without the other. Be honest about why you are saying no.
Something like, “I am so honored you came to me with this, but I am not able to do this right now.”
Carey Nieuwhof has a six step strategy on how to do this well.
If it’s something you can’t or aren’t interested in ever doing, don’t lead people on. Let them know! Redirect them to someone you think may be a better fit.
Saying no doesn’t make you a bad guy. It makes you responsible.
Just like anything else, remember the balance. Don’t say no to everything, but learn what to say no to. This is also a great time to seek counsel. Get your spouse, a friend, or a co-worker you trust to provide some clarity on the situation. Counsel gives confidence.
Seek God’s direction, be honest, and you’re on your way to saying no without being a jerk!
Take a Next Step
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