Posted by on December 3, 2012

“No” –A negative used to express refusal in response to a question or a request.

In this season of parties, gift buying, and traditions, it’s important to cultivate your ability to use the word “no”. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh or mean. It doesn’t have to leave you with the feeling of guilt or failure. It can open you up to freedom, joy, and insight.

Good Boundaries

When someone tells my husband “no”, he often refers to them as a person with good boundaries. Not that he isn’t frustrated that they aren’t stepping up to fill whatever need is calling out for attention, but he recognizes that people get to say “no” to him and not be punished for it. He’s a minister, so he knows a lot of people who give and give and give, and who could benefit from saying “no” a little more often.

Busy, Broke, and Bashed-out

Have you complained about how busy you are during this special season? Are you wondering how you’re going to afford the things on your present list? Do you have more obligations than you have time? I’m definitely not the right person to be explaining how to say “no.” I’m too busy, in debt, and still trying to figure out how I can fit one more party into my schedule, but let’s just think about using the word “no” this week and stop pretending like things are just dandy, if we’re actually worn out and need a break.

Here are a few guidelines for the use of “NO!”:

1. It’s okay to say “no” even when the only other thing you have to do is …. well, nothing in particular. A lot of times we think if we don’t already have plans then we can’t refuse someone’s request. However, we should leave some margins in our life, so our pages aren’t filled up to the edges. I told my daughter last week that I hoped she was bored at some point during her week. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she was bored. Not that being bored is so great, but actually having some space to ponder is a good thing.

2. “No” is your responsibility. I used to hope that the “other” person would notice that I can’t do much more, and he/she would take it upon themselves to give me a break. But that’s not healthy. I’m responsible for how I spend my time and my money. It’s my character that needs to be built. No passing the buck with your “no’s”. Because the more real, honest and transparent you are, the deeper you go. Someone else can’t do that for you. And to go deep is to experience the thoroughness of God’s love and forgiveness.

3.  Stop talking about it and do it. Several years ago, I wrote a musical (just the play part) called Back to a Reason. It was based on a Tran-Siberian Orchestra album, and it was about a family who had gotten so caught up in the traditions and busyness of Christmas they had forgotten about Jesus. How often have I said Christmas isn’t about all the presents and parties, but then I go out and buy a bunch of presents and go to every party? Let’s face it. It’s a bit hypocritical to say the most important thing about Christmas is Jesus and then to only focus on him during the Christmas Eve service and for the fifteen minutes it takes to read through the first two chapters of Luke. Saying “no” here may mean your children don’t have presents on Christmas morning. Would they understand? Have we trained them in such a way that they know this isn’t about what we get, but what we give? Maybe giving no presents sounds harsh, but going farther in debt glorifies no one, but the credit card company. It’s not about the presents, right? (Don’t worry girls. I’m still going to buy some presents this Christmas….but maybe not as many….)


There’s still a lot of this “no” thing that I’m not sure about. What if my saying “no” causes me to miss something God has for me? That’s a possibility. Maybe my “no” will be selfish and limiting instead of freeing and helpful. There’s not some method to follow that will guarantee I make the right decisions every time. I think the key is being honest. I’ll just be myself, and leave God to the job of working out my selfishness and keeping me from missing what he has for me. He’s good at that.

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