Do you find yourself having a hard time saying, “No” to people? If there is a new project on at your church, are you one of the first people asked to help? Do you find others making plans and creating work, only to find that when it’s time to finish a task, you are left to complete it without their help?
For some people, saying no is harder than it is for others. Perhaps you were raised with a parent that struggled to say no. Sometimes in ministry, it is really difficult to say no because you feel pressure to spread yourself evenly throughout the entire congregation. People who have trouble saying no are usually extremely likeable people, but many parts of their lives usually suffer because they are busy trying to make everyone else happy. Would you like to know how to overcome the difficulty in saying, “No” to others? If so, keep reading….
There are some people who have little trouble saying no and their way of doing it may leave others reluctant to ever ask for their help again. As believers, it is important that we give of ourselves to others, and that we go above and beyond to show each other honor (Romans 12:10); however, we must prioritize.
God has made it clear in his Word that He is to be first in all of our lives. Some people think that to make God first in their lives, serving others must also come first – no matter who they are. Yet, the primary ministry God gives husbands and wives is first to each other (your spouse) and then to your children. Everyone else comes after – after God, after spouse and after children.
Let’s say someone asks you to bake an apple pie for the church bake sale. If you have the time and resources to devote a few hours to baking for the church bake sale, that is great! Honor God with your sacrifice of time. However, if you know that your children need you during that time or that your husband has asked you to do something for him or the family, it is okay – good even! – to say no to the outside request for help. Other opportunities to serve will come soon enough.
Maybe your buddy needs you to help him move on Saturday, but you know that your kids have a soccer game and your wife has asked you to spend the day with the family. Putting your wife and family first is best, even if it inconveniences your friends from time to time. It is important to note that you do not go back on your word saying you will help – if you did; however, you should not normally commit your time outside your family without first talking to your spouse while weighing the pros and cons. It is good and important to serve others, but only after you have cared for your family’s needs – your primary area of ministry.
So, what is the big deal about saying no? Maybe you love the exhilarating feeling of juggling many different tasks and being involved in every area of your church or social group. Maybe being around others fires you up and you can’t think of anything that you want to give up. Before I was married, while I was still living at home, I went through a period in my life when I wanted to be involved in everything. Not only did I have a hard time saying no, but I looked for areas to get involved. Something about constantly being at my home church excited me.
In retrospect, a lot of my excitement probably had to do with the social aspect of being there. I considered the church my family and I enjoyed spending time with them. However, after a few years, I started to feel burned out. My commitment waned and I found myself showing up late to choir practices and other service projects. A few times I was even confronted by people who loved me about the state of my attitude.
Later, I realized that I had been doing it all for myself, not for God’s pleasure or the church’s good. I wore myself too thin because I wanted to be involved. It was not a bad thing that I wanted to work in my church; yet, because I was doing it for myself, I did not take the time to ask God for His guidance in which areas I should serve and which areas I should back away. I went from gung ho! excitement to burnout and bitterness. When we wear ourselves out under our own power, that is what happens… and our families are those that end up getting the short end of the stick (or fuse, in some cases).
So, how does this play into pre-engaged relationships? It is important to observe your boyfriend/girlfriend (or, even fiancé/fiancée) and watch how he or she commits his or her time to projects and activities. The habits that are brought into the marriage in this area do not often change quickly – even though the relationship has significantly changed after marriage (from uncommitted to commitment by vow). If you believe this is a potential area of concern for you and your future spouse, make it a point to talk to him or her about it to prevent issues that could arise on this front.
If you love serving, that is wonderful! Keep a check on your time and make sure you are giving the most time to the people God has given you to serve first. If you don’t enjoy serving or if you run from the opportunity, I would encourage you to find a place or two to serve. It can be a small commitment – as long as your heart is in the right place and you can still maintain your other commitments. We need to have community, but we need to be careful not to lose our families and our priorities in those communities.
If you do have a difficult time saying no to others, I would strongly recommend picking up the classic book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. (They even have specializations on the topics of Boundaries in dating, in marriage, with children, and with teens.)
Do you have a hard time saying, “No” to others?