It’s so hard for some of us to say no. But saying no is one of the most self-respecting things we can do. We can’t be available to everyone; we can’t say yes to every need; we can’t show up for every invitation.
If you’re one of the folks who has trouble saying no, ask yourself what’s going on up under the surface. What’s so terrifying about saying you can’t keep your sister’s kid? Is the universe going to fall apart if you don’t help both of your friends move next weekend?
For a lot of folks, saying no is scary because it means enduring the disappointment of others. And disappointing others means you might get rejected by them – nobody likes rejection. So yeah, there’s a certain level of risk in saying no – even if it’s mostly imagined.
Now if you’re the type who resists saying yes to the requests of others, maybe you’re really taking selfishness and renaming it “setting boundaries.” But you aren’t setting boundaries, you’re doing whatever you want to do, and you’ve gotten really good at shrugging people off when they want you to do something else.
Regardless of which camp you fall in, they’re both rooted in the same thing: self-preservation. And according to Jesus, the solution is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark: 30-31).
That is, if you tend to serve as everyone’s doormat, you probably need to work on loving yourself. If you have a pattern of shrugging off other people’s requests, you probably need to work on loving your neighbor.
But striking the balance between these two requires some spiritual heart surgery by the Holy Spirit. He’s going to need us to be honest about why we can’t say no (maybe because we’re needy and desperate to be liked), or why we can’t say yes (maybe because we just don’t care how other people feel).
And as He begins clearing our heads of the noisy static of fear and selfishness, the next time someone comes to us with a need, instead of replying with our natural response, we might actually hear His still, small voice teaching us how to love.