Saying No is the new Saying Yes

Why do we end up saying yes to some things that we don’t really want to do? What is it that we find so hard about saying no? The video and blog below try to unpick these questions and give some practical tips for living true to the people God made us to be.

Remember the character Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley who would say “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…. yes”? Even he couldn’t stick with his ‘no’ in the end.

Often, we say ‘yes’ for good reason, perhaps because we don’t want to hurt or disappoint people or let them down. Sometimes we feel we need to justify or explain a ‘no’, especially if it’s something we just don’t want to do, or that we feel isn’t right for us. Justifying our responses tends to be more of an issue for women than men too. If you say to a man “Oh I like your top”, most men will just say “thanks”. But women have a greater tendency to justify or qualify their answer and may respond along the lines of “it’s just an old top”, or ‘I just got it from a charity shop”, or “I got it in the sale.”  

Sometimes we find it hard to give a simple answer, or to say no when we really want to, because we feel we need a ‘proper’ reason. And if we really want to say ‘no’, but find ourselves more often saying ‘yes’, it can be damaging. It can hold us back from doing what we meant to be doing, from our true potential. If we take on things that we shouldn’t really be doing, then we don’t have space to do those things that we want to do or really want to do, or that God has called us to do.

This behaviour can also take an emotional toll because it causes us to live with a disparity between our real identity and what God wants for us, and how we are actually living. Of course, there will be times when it is right to help and serve; for example, you may not desperately want to take the tea towels home to wash or help put away chairs after Sunday morning coffee at church, but in those moments you’re probably not thinking “I really shouldn’t be doing this” either. But there will be other things we should be saying ‘no’ to. To serve others effectively we need to look after ourselves and make sure we’re a true, full, living, breathing version of what God has called us to be.

You’re probably familiar with the example of being in an aeroplane that gets into trouble: you’re instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first, as you need to be breathing before you try to help other people. And the same holds true for all situations where we are serving others; we need to be living and breathing and fit for God before we can truly help people in the way that he has called us to do.

The definition of self-sabotage is getting in your own way of reaching your goals, your purpose or your passion and it’s only you that’s standing in the way. Saying yes when you really want to say no can be a form of self-sabotage we do for several reasons:   

  • It could be quite subconscious, and you may not be able to articulate why;
  • maybe you think that the busier you are, the more God will love you, or the more you’ll please Him;
  • perhaps you’re not quite sure where God is, so you keep trying to find him in different things;
  • or perhaps you are not ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’’, putting other people first but missing out the important aspect of looking after yourself too.

So, what can we do about it? The most important thing, as always, is to have God at the centre of your life and all your decisions. Jesus expressed his heart and his passions, but he didn’t always please people. He sometimes upset, angered, or annoyed people, but he kept close to God, he was true to God, and he followed God with his heart, his passions and with his physicality. The more you are yourself and the more you give yourself momentum to keep being yourself, the better! If you start to shut off bits of yourself and not follow the direction in which God has called you, it becomes harder to be true to yourself in all areas.

So, start practicing! Practice recognising when you’re not staying true to yourself and not finding peace. Recognise those little things that perhaps you should be saying ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’ to rather than yes to. Start small and look out for the sweet spots. Ask yourself: “Where do I feel alive? Where do I feel I am serving God to the best of my ability?”

And of course, this kind of self-reflection might bring up some deeper things: maybe you’re trying to please people for the wrong reasons; maybe you feel that against your instincts you need to go down a route that others encouraging you down, and if this is the case, you may need to seek out some support or counsel. But if you can stay true to yourself and true to God it can be liberating to find your true identity and walk in that.

It’s unlikely that when you meet God face to face, he will ask why you weren’t more like Moses, Abraham, Peter, or Paul. But what he might ask is “why weren’t you more like you?”

If you want to delve a bit deeper, Fitfish is running a number of online courses and events over the next few months aimed at helping you to overcome obstacles so you can be the person God has called you to be; you can find out more here.





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