I’ve heard from several readers lately who want some help saying no—without guilt! In this post, I share five secrets that helped transform me from a chronic people-pleaser to a more healthy person who knows when and how to say no. So if you cringe when you’re asked to do something you know you need to pass on, you need to learn these secrets!
…Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Christian (Secret #1)
For believers, Jesus is our model. Previously, I wrote a post reflecting on the apostle Paul’s call for us to have the same mindset as Christ. So, one of the best guilt-relieving strategies is to read the Scriptures and notice how often God says no. (I’ve listed a couple of examples on the 5 Secrets to Saying No Action Plan Checklist. Grab your copy now!)
God is good all the time. And He says no frequently. Thus, we must conclude that it is not ungodly to say no when appropriate.
And that’s the catch for most of who struggle with this skill. How do we know when it is appropriate and godly to say no? And that leads us to the second and third secrets.
…Can Be the Most Loving Response (Secret #2)
God created each of us to be responsible for certain aspects of our life. If someone is capable of handling their responsibilities, but not willing to do so, God calls that irresponsibility. It is not loving to enable irresponsibility in others.
This is totally different from someone being in a crisis situation that they are unable to cope on their own. Life in this fallen world can overwhelm our God-given ability to shoulder some burdens. In those instances when our load becomes a legitimate burden, it is appropriate to ask for help. And as believers, when we are in a position to help carry someone’s burden, we want to respond lovingly and graciously.
Check your motive for saying yes. If it is fear-based (fear of guilt, looking bad, rejection, etc.) you’re probably well-within the bounds of love to say no. You need to deal with your fear and let the one asking for help deal with their responsibilities.
However, if your motive is to help someone do something because you have the capacity and resources and want to freely share those, then your yes is probably the godly response. Are you capable of helping them get their head above water without drowning yourself?
Jesus was capable of overcoming death and we were not. He left his position of glory to dive down into our swirling shipwreck and save us. He did for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. And he had the capacity and resources to do so. Living cruciform is not the same thing as living as a doormat for irresponsible people to use and abuse.
…Without Guilt IS Possible! (Secret #3)
Once you ground your thinking on this topic in God’s character as revealed in the Scriptures and you understand how to determine if your yes will enable irresponsibility versus help shoulder another’s legitimate burden, you’ll begin to feel the guilt dissipate.
You’ll also be better prepared to counter manipulative responses to an appropriate no.
If you are gripped by fear or guilt, you probably need to brush up on your boundary-setting basics. Learning the biblical principles of healthy boundary setting will equip you to give voice to guilt-free nos when appropriate. I’d be happy to send you my FREE Boundary Basics email series. These five articles will get you up to speed on the basic principles of godly boundary setting.
…Gets Easier with Practice. (Secret #4)
Boundary setting and saying no is a skill. And as with any skill it takes time to hone your knowledge and capability. Planning and practicing your new skills will make it easier for you to get that no out in real life circumstances.
Also, it can be extremely helpful to have a more experienced boundary-setter mentor you and model the skill. As you see someone else put the strategies into practice in day-to-day situations, you’ll realize you can do it as well. And they can role-play situations you regularly struggle with so you’re prepared with the words (and will) to follow through without beating yourself up.
You’ll learn how to give a no with grace. Saying no doesn’t have to be callous. A good no is given while communicating respect and concern for the one requesting something. Practicing with a mentor will help you polish your wording so as to graciously decline.
On the Action Plan, you’ll find some tips and suggestions related to selecting and approaching your potential mentors.
…Leads to More Peace, Less Stress (Secret #5)
When you are empowered and equipped to extend a godly no, you’ll begin to get your head above the waves of overwhelm.
You’ll be exercising better stewardship over your resources and God-given realm of responsibilities.
This will mean you have the margin and capacity to be a strong bearer of burdens for people who really need your help; instead of being loaded down with the castoffs of the shiftless sluggards.
Again, you’ll want to grab the Action Plan as I’ve got three simple questions you need to ask yourself about the yeses you’ve already given that should have been nos.