Are you able to say no?


No. It is a simple word. Two letters, one syllable. Why do so many women have a problem saying it? Even when they are tired, even when there are more pressing matters, women seem to struggle in responding with, “no.”

Why do we think our answer should always be “yes”?

I wonder, do we have an issue with control? Do we believe we are the only ones who can do a given task, and therefore rarely say no? Or, maybe it is an issue of self worth, or lack thereof. Do we say yes to one more committee, one more item on our to do list because we are trying to fill a void in our lives? Is it to feel needed? Maybe we rely too heavily on the accolades from others. We all like a pat on the back every now and then. Is that what is driving us?

What results from being unable to say no?

When we shout a resounding “yes!” to everything that comes our way, we exhaust ourselves. With our energy depleted, as we serve and serve some more, we have little left to give those who matter most. Our friends and families are usually left picking up our tired pieces. Even more than how exhausted we become, saying “yes” too often may cause us to miss the “yes” we are meant for. It is not that we should pull away from our community or  stop serving altogether. Yet, we need to be more careful, more discerning, about who or what receives our “yes.”

There are many opportunities that present themselves, but I know they are not all meant for me. I cannot and will not say yes to it all. Otherwise, I will find myself saying yes to all the wrong things.

What is in the power of “no”?

Matthew 4 discusses the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, so the devil offers Jesus some food, telling Jesus to tell the stones to become bread. Yet, Jesus says no.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4, NIV)

Standing on the highest point of the temple, the devil tells Jesus to throw himself down if he is the Son of God.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7, NIV)

Assuming Jesus would be influenced by power, the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if only Jesus will bow down to the devil.

 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10, NIV)

Saying no allowed Jesus to be obedient. In saying no, Jesus gave the devil no power. By saying no to these seemingly good things (food is good and power is not inherently bad), Jesus said “Yes!” to the Father.

Temptation is not always so easy to spot.

We are tempted too. We are tempted to accept recognition, to take hold of our own sources of power. We too are tempted to feast, even when called to fast. We are tempted to manipulate situations and people for a desired outcome. We are, or at least I am, tempted to “take matters into my our hands” rather than trust God to guide and direct. When I am saying yes to too many things, and become weary in my efforts, I am less likely to discern the devil’s attacks.

How do we decide what receives our yes and our no?

  1. Does what we are being asked to do glorify God? If not, the answer is a resounding, “NO!” However, there are many worthy causes we could dedicate our time to. We need to ask more questions if this is the case.
  2. Will we be using our spiritual gifts and strengths? If you will not, say no. To say yes when you are not working how you have been gifted is like taking away a toy from a friend. Don’t do that. Allow others to serve in their strengths. For instance, I was asked to serve as “tech support” for a women’s ministry. While I really wanted to be a part of this area of ministry, I knew I would not excel in this area. Had I said yes, the woman who ended up serving in this role would not have, and she was made for it. Every week, she was fired up by the songs she had found, by the way everything came together: all of it. Me? I knew the role was not for me and I would be doing it simply to become involved. This is the wrong motivation, so I thanked them, but said no.
  3. What is your motivation? This will require a great deal of maturity, and a great deal of honesty. We must ask ourselves why we would be saying yes. Is it to escape other areas of life? To receive recognition? To fill a void in our lives? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, then our answer should be, “no.”

Do you struggle to say no, even when you truly want to?

Friends,  I do not want to disappoint people either. I do not want others to speak poorly of me, and I want them to know I can be counted on. However, I also know in order for that to happen, I cannot say yes to everything. You and I both know there are some people who excel in laying on guilt trips so thick we nearly suffocate. Do not worry! There is a way around that too.

  1. Response option 1: “Let me get back to you in a few days so I can think about it.” This allows you the freedom to really consider if what you are being asked to do is for you. Also, due to some people being impatient, they may fill the need before you ever get back to them.
  2. Response option 2: “Call me back in three days, and I will have an answer for you.” This response is merely another form of the first, but also places the responsibility back on them. Again, impatience often leads to you not being contacted again.
  3. Response option 3: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I do not believe I would be able to give this the amount of time and energy I would like.” It is nice to be considered, right? This response allows you to express you want to do things well, but at this time, that would not happen. People will appreciate your honesty: there is nothing worse than saying yes and having to back out later because you have taken on more than you should.

Friends, let’s be careful what we say yes to. Not every opportunity is worth of our yes. Not every situation needs our yes. We can say no, and the world will continue on. In fact, as I have learned to say no, and do so without regret, I have found a greater sense of peace in my own life. My friends and family do not get merely what is left of me, and I have energy to do what God has given me to do.

No: a small word with a big impact.

Michelle Discavage

Michelle believes in living passionately, loving deeply and laughing often. She draws encouragement from Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Michelle lives in Texas with her husband and their daughter, where she is a certified life purpose coach. With a wide smile, a gift of mercy, and a love for writing, Michelle looks for the hand of God in every moment. Her site, “Sparked Living," can be found at

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this post Michelle.  As I work to find margin in my chaotic life, I need to be more intentional to what I say yes to.  This is a great reference to how to make those decisions!



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