We wrote about saying yes last month. This month we’re taking a look at when to say no. Take a look at Tracy’s post from last week here.
I (Jennifer) received a precious tutorial from a friend, and I’ll pass it on to you:
Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. Take a deep breath and begin to “hum” the N consonant sound. Follow that with a sustained “long O” sound. Practice the lip shape in the transition from one letter to the other: relaxed and half open to a near-puckered kiss. Try it: “N-n-n-no!”
That’s my public service tutorial for the week. I hope it’s helpful. When my beautiful friend shared this with me, I laughed. The lesson was precious, and I review it often.
What’s the point of beginning with the speech therapy part of the “No” process? If you’re like me, you might forget the word is even an option. Those who love to make others happy may forget. Those seeking to discover who they are and where their specific talents, abilities, and giftedness lie can forget. And sometimes the significance of the ask can cause us to take leave of our senses long enough that Yes completely obscures No. Have you been there?
We know how to say no, but do we know when to say it?
Competing event invitations, multiple employment opportunities (or even just one), and other commitments require a response. An unfamiliar person in the crowd obviously needs encouragement. A desperate person in financial crisis begs for help. When do we say no? I’m not sure there’s a single, easy answer.
I know I’m tempted to give a quick no when three things come into play: my comfort, my courage, or my ego-centric leanings. You, too?
The reality is my comfort zone “footprint” can be a bit small. I’m rarely the early adopter of new ideas, places, or processes. (I’ve lagged in nearly everything from social media to Thai food.) If it’s not broken, I don’t feel the need to fix it, either. My courage quotient rarely lands in the “boldly go where no man has gone before” quadrant (StarTrek, 1966).
Simply put, my reasons for offering a quick no may be knee-jerk and ego-centric in nature. I notice one thing about all of the above—it’s all about me—and I’m not proud of that. It’s easy to refuse any ask (from my Father God or a friend) when I’m all wrapped up in me, my skill set, or my comfort. It might be a confidence-competency-fear thing for some of us, and it can be for me. That’s not new. The Bible highlights the hesitations some of God’s key men and women had when He made big asks.
But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant—because I am slow and hesitant in speech.” Exodus 4:10 CSB
Moses presented his case for dismissal from the God-given assignment to return to Egypt and lead the nation of Israel out of slavery into their own land. I think he believed he had good reason to be replaced. But God…
The Lord said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12
The Lord reminded Moses who he was and whose he was. When Moses nearly balked, He provided a companion for him: his Levite brother, Aaron, who had lived in Egyptian captivity for his whole life (vv. 14, 15). Moses accepted the assignment, but tentatively. God had a unique purpose set aside just for him.
In light of Moses’ story, I want to set new goals. I’d like to listen to requests more carefully first. An ask might come in the form of a beautiful invitation, employment opportunity, casual text, desperate cry, or a gentle nudge in my spirit. My schedule may be jam-packed or held open for any number of reasons. Still, the request deserves consideration, and I don’t want a knee-jerk no to be offered because I’m uncomfortable or afraid.
So, when can or should we say no? It seems like we should never refuse God, and then we have no idea when to say no. After all, He could want to use us in any scenario with anyone, right? Here are some thoughts as I’ve prayed about the “good no” response.
Could there be a lesson in listening? What if the leading in decisions should come from cultivated relationship? What if a bit of humility paired with lordship could infuse a no response with peace, trust, and courage?
Whatever my response, if I pause to listen, I’m making a conscious decision to hear what God has to say. Listening might look like stopping to pray, checking the boundaries expressed in Scripture, or asking a wise, trusted friend to speak into the decision. Do you know what happens when I want to know what the Lord has to say? He answers!
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
God loves to reveal Himself and tell us what He’s got in mind. We can rest in the truth of that. He will sort out His perfectly tailored asks from the ones that don’t fall in line with His good plans. That means listening often yields the right leading. Direction comes from pausing to listen, and intimate relationship is forged in that!
The third thing, humble response to His lordship, is powerful. When we are willing to follow through with the God-directed, “good no” we need to give, it’s infused with peace, trust, and courage. Over time, with practice in hearing and responding, we learn to trust the voice of God and become more confident in knowing His will. Sure, times of silence may still happen. Sometimes we may be given our own freedom to choose. But if we have taken time to listen and check for a leading, we’ve taken two great steps toward His guidance in any situation.
While there’s no guarantee we’ll never regret saying no, this process holds a lot of promise for the best chance to say no with peace. Then we learn to say no firmly in a loving tone. For me, that takes practice and a little finesse.
Thanks for reading along. I’d love to read your thoughts in the Comments below or at the Facebook page! Feel free to share your thoughts on your own blog, too, and let us know you’ve joined and continued the conversation.