My father has a hard time saying “no” when it comes to work. He has a hard time telling people “no” even when his workload is full. Then his schedule is so filled that all he can do is work, eat, and sleep.
This is actually where “Like father like son” is relevant. I’m a lot like my dad in this area. If I see something that I can do or help in some way I try to be there to assist. The stress increases the busier we allow ourselves to be. This can create wear on our bodies and then we end up sick or our body breaks down from exhaustion.
I currently have six major responsibilities that I have said “Yes” to. In hindsight, I maybe should have said “no” to a couple of them. So why don’t we say no? Why don’t I say no? Here are my thoughts in no particular order.
1. We don’t want to disappoint. None of us enjoy seeing a person’s face go from happy to sad because of our “no” answer. If you are asked to do something and people have confidence in you, it can be hard to say no. This one’s tough because being a “Debbie Downer” isn’t who you want to be. Although a person may be disappointed in your declining answer, when you have too much to do, you’re not able to do any of it 100%.
2. We like being counted on. I’m not meaning in a prideful way, but in a way that is a positive reflection your character. People know that you will keep your word and you take (healthy) pride in being responsible. None of us are perfect in this, but being counted on and then accomplishing that task typically makes us feel good. We can become afraid to ever say no because we don’t want people to perceive us as irresponsible.
3. Others have helped us. As a pastor I have a frequent tendency to ask people for help. There is no way that I can do everything that needs to be done here at the church. I ask a multitude of people for help. Just last night I asked folks to help with moving someone from one place to another and to also help with finishing up work on our new parking lot. I can’t do it all myself, so I ask for help. I think that’s why I often say “yes” to so many other things. It’s because so many people have helped me. (That is my personal epiphany today)
4. We don’t like being told no ourselves. It’s hard when you are in a real need and you ask someone to lend a hand and they answer in the negative. “What do I do now?” I have had so many instances where people have said no and the feeling of being lost instantly overwhelms me. They may have great reasons for not being able to do something, like having a baby or having major surgery, but the word “no” can be hard to swallow. (In our household the reaction of my children to hearing a response of no spans from a simple “OK” to a yelling, stomping, “Why do you hate me” response.) Being told “no” can be hard to digest, but we have to let it go and accept it.
5. Other people’s needs should come first. I do believe this, that we need to be looking out for each other, but it can be taken too far. I know for those in Christian ministry this can be very dangerous. Doing so much “religious” stuff that one’s family can become neglected. Having some health concerns myself, I have to be especially careful with this. What good am I to my wife and five children if I’m exhausted all the time? What type of father will they remember if I am at work and with other people all the time and spending time with their families and not my own? I did have an older pastor years ago tell me that I needed to spend more time doing the church work even if it killed me. . . literally. I share a differing opinion as I believe that I can say no to some things and still have quality time for my church duties as well as quality time for my family.
6. We don’t want to offend. I see this as different from #1. Disappointment is different than being offensive. We may refrain from saying no because the person will blow up at us. They may roll their eyes, do an about face, and storm out of the room. Now you have to deal with trying to mend the friendship which could even take more time than if you have just said yes in the first place! These situations are difficult because you’re probably dealing with a selfish person. It might be better to just help than to suffer the consequences of their status update about “a backstabbing friend” on Facebook.
7. Pride. This is the bad kind though. Maybe the reason you don’t decline to do something is because you want to be in the limelight. I know folks that have so much on their plates for the main purpose of letting others know how much they do. It’s a status symbol for them. The more pride controls you the less friends and acquaintances you will have.
I’m sure that you can think of other reasons why we don’t say “no” and if you would like to share them I would love your input. By no means do I want anyone to continually say “no” to everything asked of them, but in order to live a more balanced life feel free to say that two letter word. God doesn’t want our lives to be filled with so much activity that we neglect the blessings we’ve been given. It’s okay to say no.