When to Say No

Very recently, I said no to something good to say yes to something better…

I haven’t always done that.

Because saying no to good things is hard; and most of us aren’t that good at it.

And if I let myself, in a quick second I will sit and mourn…the times I said yes when I should have said no…the hours I have invested in things that were to save face, make someone else happy, not miss out, feed my fear until it was fat and belly-scratching happy.  I admit, I’ve done that, plenty.

But instead I choose to use this moment to honor the beauty of learning when to say no, in the hopes that both you and I will keep these compass truths close when we are tempted to say yes to something on the wrong terms.

We must say no, even to the good thing….

1)   When the yes is out of fear or control.  When our motive of saying yes to something is driven by fear [of losing a relationship, not getting ahead, man’s opinion, etc.] or desire to control, we are saying yes for the wrong reason.

2)   When the yes would compromise a core belief or primary responsibility. God will never ask us to do something that would compromise His Word or injure our commitment to family.

3)   When the yes is more about flesh want than spiritual burden. A self-gratifying yes can be portrayed to others to be “of God”; but He knows where our heart is truly leading us and in that omniscience, holds us accountable.

4)   When the yes is because we misunderstand our gifts.  It is freeing, when we understand that even good things may not be a good fit for our giftings – recognizing how God may want to use someone different in a certain space, giving us room to say yes to things that are most suited for us.

5)   When the yes doesn’t settle well in our spirit.  God has graciously given us the Holy Spirit to be our internal guide in life, and for the believer, a yes with a wrong motive will not settle well inside.  Gratefully, this gift of discernment helps keep us operating in healthy ways when we listen and respond.

This journey we are on, friends…it’s a decision journey.  It’s years and days and moments of yes and no.

May we, even today, have the wisdom to choose what’s best.


*Conversation: Do these guidelines help you better determine when to say no? If yes…which one means the most? […and pass this post onto your friends to help them, too! :)]

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  1. says

    Love this Lisa! Really makes me think, but right now I’m going to say “No” to a long comment and trust God will bless you for touching my heart. And speaking to it too!

  2. Lina says

    thanks Lisa!

    Because I have always been a “people pleaser” this is an issue I have worked hard to understand. I really like # 4) When the yes is because we misunderstand our gifts. That is a new item for me to process, and oddly might just link up with my recent saying “no” to Bible study night in order to be there for a friend that was having a rough time. I had to wrestle with my thoughts of failure/being ungodly/giving up because I chose a friend over God. But did I really? I decided in the end that giving up Bible study (which is basically for my spiritual growth) to help a friend (a non-believer) might be a much greater God given purpose.

    Thanks for always making us think more and maybe do less.

    Be Well,

    • Lisa says

      I love this decision, Lina…and your willingness to wrestle through it. What you chose is the purest of ministry: building relationship and discipling towards God. Love it, and know He is pleased.

  3. Makeda says

    This is the second time in two days I’ve read something about saying no. I think this might be a sacred okay and maybe God is trying to whisper something to my heart

  4. says

    Oh this is so powerfully true. If we could only let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ out of a genuine desire to please Him {2 Corinthians 5:9} instead of wringing our hands at what everyone else might say or making their standards our own.

    A lovely piece of heart-touching writing …

  5. says

    This is a lesson I am struggling with right now – to the point I am up from 5am utnil 11pm trying to fit it all in. The one that I struggle with most is #1….I want to make others happy and be a part of it all.

    Thank you for the practical advice on how to improve.

  6. says

    I must admit I struggle with #1. But I always sense #5 when I’m struggling with #1. Every time.

    Lisa, I really like this post and especially this…

    “It is freeing, when we understand that even good things may not be a good fit for our giftings.”

    SO freeing. I am relearning that one again. Thank you for the gentle push.

    You are a treasure!

  7. says

    Thanks for a timely word, Lisa. I appreciate your differentiation of the different reasons for why we say yes. When we reserve the “yes” for God’s reasons, we truly get to eat from the “tree of life” that keeps on giving us life.

  8. says

    Lisa ~
    Thank you for this! When you know God is doing something and there is so much going on you don’t want to miss it. I remind myself that my steps are ordered by God and that even if it is God moving I must be patient as He unfolds His plan for me.