Simplicity and the Art of Saying “No”

“Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best.”
–John C. Maxwell, bestselling author on leadership

Nobody likes to hear the word “no” whether it’s from the telecom company, a two-year old kid, or the fussy cat beside you. And so it’s no wonder that we have quite the aversion to saying “no” ourselves. We just can’t seem to say it even though what we’re being asked to do will eat into our personal time and drain us of whatever energy we have left. It’s a common occurrence in the workplace. It’s a common occurrence in ministry.

I used to have a hard time saying “no” myself. Being a natural people-pleaser and a pastor at that (the perfect combination for disaster), I didn’t want to disappoint anybody and hurt their feelings. I just couldn’t help feeling awful for turning somebody down. And so I’d say “yes” even if it meant that it would entrench right into my personal time or bring me to the brink of exhaustion and burn out. Now to be clear, it wasn’t their fault for asking me. It was my fault for accepting and allowing myself to overextend. I eventually realized that if I wanted to protect my time and energy better, I would have to learn to say “no.” And I would have to learn to say it regularly.

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Saying “no” is important to living a simple lifestyle—the kind of lifestyle that will enable us to do the things that greatly matter to God. If we fill up our schedules with all sorts of events and activities, we won’t have any time left to do the things that God expects (i.e. spending time with Him, making disciples, etc.). If we overextend ourselves regularly, we won’t have the proper energy or the proper frame of mind to do those things either. So saying “no” becomes crucial in order for us to have adequate time and energy to do the things that greatly matter to God. It is our responsibility to ensure that we don’t overextend ourselves and that we have the space and capacity to do the things that will bring us fulfillment. Saying “no” will ultimately allow us to say “yes” to the right things such as…

Saying “yes” to meeting with God daily.
Saying “yes” to family time.
Saying “yes” to proper rest and recreation.
Saying “yes” to mentoring somebody.
Saying “yes” to serving at church.
Saying “yes” to sharing the good news.

Although it may disappoint some people, I find that regularly saying “no” is vital to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And at the end of the day, it allows me to focus my life and say “yes” to the things that matter most—the kind of stuff that matter to God.