It’s okay to say “no”

Telling people no, that I can’t help them or can’t do something, is the hardest thing in the world for me to do.  I don’t like it at all.  When friends, family, or coworkers ask for help, I want to immediately jump in and do whatever is needed.  But, I’ve learned this year that always saying “yes” isn’t a good thing.

The desire to want to help is good.  Loving people means we do what we can to help.  But, I have to stop and ask myself why I am really helping.  What are my motives?  Do I worry about what people think of me, and therefore, am looking for some kind of recognition or praise?  Do I struggle with control issues, thinking that it won’t get done unless I accomplish it?  Do I genuinely want to help my friend?

The answer to all of these is “yes.”  Yes, I agree to do things because I genuinely want to help.  But, I also say yes when asked because I want people to view me a certain way, or because I think it won’t get done without my help.  Do wrong motives mean I should say “no”?  Not necessarily.  It does mean that I need to do a heart check and ask myself why I’m agreeing.

But, there truly is a time when it’s okay to say “no”.  Even if I have the right motives in helping, it still may not be the right thing to do.  I’ve learned this year that constantly saying “yes” to everything I’m asked to do leads to exhaustion, burn out, and causes me to neglect the work I am responsible for and called to do.

We encourage our children to be helpful; we teach them that Jesus wants us to help people the same way He did.  But, when I read the gospels, I see that there are times Jesus didn’t help people.  Luke 5:15-16 says, “But now even more the report about him [Jesus] went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”  People were coming to hear Jesus preach and to be healed, and Jesus left.  Why?  He healed many other people, why not all of them?  Jesus knew that in order to fulfill his calling, to accomplish what he needed, he had to have time alone.  He needed to get away and just be in the presence of the Father.  He needed to focus on his relationship with the Father and what he was called to do. 

We need to do the same thing.  Sometimes, I need to say “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you right now.  I really need to focus on my responsibilities.”  Yes, sometimes helping someone means sacrifice — a sacrifice of time or money or anything else.  But there is a time when I should say “no”, and realize that it’s okay.  I need to stop feeling guilty because I choose to honor the previous commitment I have made, or because I need to focus on something that takes priority over my friend’s request.  The world won’t stop spinning because I can’t help someone right that second.  We won’t stop being friends because they had to go ask someone else.  I need to follow the example of my Elder Brother and withdraw occasionally; spend some time with my Father and focus on what matters.

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