By Anthony Casperson
This past Thursday I was asked if I wanted to work more than I was scheduled for the following day (meaning yesterday). My route had an early release, so my afternoon would be free. However, time management throughout the week was not going well for me.
I’ve been dealing with some stomach/intestinal issues lately and had to have some blood work done to see if they could find anything that way. That cut into the time I normally work on stuff for the website here. Adding to that, I had to completely scrap the post I was writing this week for several reasons. (#behindthescenes) Also, I could use all the time I could get to ready myself for the D&D game I DM, which we played last night.
Needless to say, I had to tell my work no for the extra hours. And almost immediately I felt this strange guilt/stress after saying no. Worry entered. And I felt bad on account of my answer.
I had to ask myself why I felt this way. The search turned up fear. A multi-faceted fear that I realized is often there when I say no to things.
I’m not alone, I know. We have this sense of fear about saying no that often leads us into doing more than we can handle. So, I thought it good to look at what fears we have about saying no and showing them for the lies that they are.
1. What will others think about me?
The lie creeps in that if we say no, others will see us as weak or lazy or uncaring. We want to put forward this image of ourselves that we can do anything. That others can count on us. But the fact of the matter is that we can’t do everything. It’s physically impossible for us to accomplish everything.
There will come times when we have to say no. Whether that’s through us recognizing our limits or our bodies giving out because we went too far, the time will come. And it’s far better for us to take care of ourselves than to push it beyond the limit.
Other people will think what they want to. We can’t control that. Thus, it’s better to do what we can control, such as limiting how much we do. Our value doesn’t come from how much we can perform or what others think about us. God has set our value as worth dying for. And I’d much rather see things from the perspective of an infinite, all-seeing being than sinful, selfish human beings.
2. What do other think that I think about them?
If you’re anything like me, you put yourself in other people’s shoes too much. Worrying about making sure they feel their value more than feeling it yourself. This makes it difficult to say no because we think that they’ll see every no is a rejection of them.
Kinda the opposite of the first fear, this one finds us trying to put on God’s mantle of being the value-giver. As if we can give better gifts than God himself. We stretch ourselves thin, a finite being playing infinite.
A single no from us won’t remove value from others. We don’t have that kind of power. And even if the other person does feel bad because of our no, we can’t control that either. We can try to help them realize their true value in God, but they have to come to that realization themselves.
3. Am I missing out on something?
Saying no means that we don’t get to experience what we would have if we had said yes. For my example, I won’t get the money I could’ve gotten for working more. But this fear can take many forms.
We worry about not having as much fun. Or we wonder if something better could happen if we say yes. The thought of settling for the lesser makes us try to reach for everything. And that often ends with us getting nothing, or very close to that.
This fear really boils down to a lack of contentment. We’re not content with the things that we have, the things that God has given to us, and we overreach. The lie of us having to always have the best leads us to not appreciate the things that we do have.
4. What if bad things happen as a result of me saying no?
Another fear deals with thoughts about future ramifications. Sure, every action has a reaction. But this fear assumes that the reaction will always be a bad one. If I say no now, then I won’t be asked to do this in the future. Or, the person asking me might seek retribution for the negative response.
However, worrying about the future doesn’t benefit us at all. Jesus says in Matthew 6:27, “And which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to his span of life?” Worrying doesn’t get us anywhere that we truly want to be.
We have God who leads us in our lives. If we truly trust him then even if bad things do happen, we have faith that he’ll provide us with other opportunities. Faith in God’s power is the answer to this fear. Not trust that nothing bad can happen to us. But rather, trust that God knows what he’s doing in us and our circumstances.
5. What if this becomes a bad habit?
We can fear that our saying no will eventually become our general mode of operation. That a no now will come to always be a no even to things that we want to do as often as we can.
For instance, another thing I had to say no to this week was the small group I’m a part of. My medical issues raged on pretty hard this week as they had the week previous. And one thought in my head was that a repetition of not going to a good thing like small group can lead to eventual removal from the group. I don’t want that, but my thought process went that way when I said no to going.
While repetition can become habit, the way to overcome this fear is to realize the difference between excuse and reason. Is our saying no because we have a reason more than we just don’t feel like it? If we have a legitimate reason, then when that reason no longer applies we’ll be able to answer in the affirmative. Excuses lead to bad habits, not good reasons.
[Astute observers will notice that I didn’t go to small group on Thursday, but did have D&D night last night. This boils down to home field advantage. My reasons can be dealt with better if I’m at home than elsewhere. The funny thing is that the fact that I feel obligated to explain myself might make me have to look back at the first two fears.]
Saying no isn’t a bad thing. It means that we know we have limitations and must abide by them. It’s healthy to say no. Sure, there will be ramifications for saying no, but there will be some for saying yes too. The major thing to ask ourselves is, “Which response will lead to the healthiest effect in our lives, physically, spiritually, and emotionally?”
And quite often it’s no.