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The Spiritual Practice of Saying Yes or No

October 27, 2014

If you enjoy being involved in your community or your church, chances are that you have been asked to join a committee, a Bible study, teach Sunday school, lead the youth group, or just help out. How easy is it for you to say yes to such requests? To say no? I think the majority of us have a harder time saying no rather than saying yes. Many of us have also learned the hard lesson of saying yes too many times and ending up feeling frustrated, burdened and burned out; when we ask ourselves why we said yes in the first place.

I know that I am not good at saying no. I hate to think that I would be disappointing people or making it harder for them to find someone else to ask. I know they need help and they came to me, how can I  refuse? So I have said yes too many times and have learned the lesson of over-commitment the hard way. But the solution to the problem of saying yes too many times isn't simply just saying no to everything because we are now resentful, angry, and tired, is it? I think it is a bit more complicated than that. Discernment is spiritual practice, it affects our walk with God. Therefore, I think it is important to know where we stand and what our true reasons for saying yes or no are. We need to examine our own motivations, needs, and time and prayerfully consider God's leading in providing an answer. Clearly, if we agree to something based on guilt, or own need to feel important and validated, those reasons are not going to hold up over time.

Recently, I said yes to two different requests. In both of these instances, I didn't take too much time to think: I just went with my gut feeling. I questioned why I said yes so quickly. After all, I know better than that! But, in spite of my initial doubts, I am happy I did, it felt right. It was right for me, because I have been thinking about how to get more involved in my church and the things I was asked to do were in line with my gifts and where I want to put my energy. But it did make me think about this whole issue of yes or no all over again. A few days later, I came upon two blog entries by one of my favorite theologians and pastors, Nadia Bolz-Weber, who addressed this exact problem! Talk about a God moment! On her blog, she listed her reasons for saying yes and no and many of them resonated with me. You can find Nadia's thoughts on this issue [here] and [here].

I thought it was a great idea to spend some time thinking about this problem and list my own reasons for saying yes and no to gain some insight into my own motivations.

 

I say “yes” because:

 

  • I find myself at a time when I need to grow spiritually 

  • I have the time to commit to something new

  • I am excited about doing this kind of work

  • I feel God nudging me to stretch myself

  • It is something that is in line with my gifts and talents

  • I need to take my focus off myself and focus on others

  • I have been waiting and looking for something new to get involved in

 

I say “no” because:

 

  • I don't have the energy or the time right now

  • It is not in my line of gifts or talents and 

  • I am not the right person for this 

  • I don't have the energy needed for this task

  • I don't need the additional responsibility right now

  • I am burned out and will resend myself if I say yes

So those are my reasons. What are yours??? I want to encourage you to think about them! That doesn't mean it will be easy to know what decision to make next time around. It is, after all, a spiritual discipline which by its very definition is something that is always teaching us and changing us in unexpected ways. The most important thing to do is to pray about it, and take your time to listen to God before you give an answer.

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