No. For some reason this is one of the hardest words to say in the English language—perhaps any language. Two little letters fraught with powerful emotions. Though difficult for many of us, saying no is often vital for the peace of our soul.
I don’t know about you, but when I say no (or even contemplate it) I am often filled with an intense sense of guilt. My mind is flooded with accusations of selfishness, of shame at the thought of letting someone down or disappointing them. I start to bully myself into saying yes by making endless mental lists of why I should say yes.
I went through this struggle again the other day when I was asked to do something to help someone out. It wasn’t that what I was being asked was so horrible. On the contrary, it was something that I enjoy doing, but for some reason my heart was not in it. I had no good excuse for saying no; I just really, really did not want to say yes. The more I thought about it, the more stressed and anxious I became. I eventually bullied myself into deciding to say yes (as I often do). Then I got sick. Violently sick. And voila! I had my excuse to say no without guilt.
It occurred to me as I nursed my poor, sick body, that I had, perhaps, brought this illness upon myself. It seemed entirely possible to me that I wished my body to become ill. I could not help concluding that it would have been far easier to simply give myself permission to say no and skip the need for illness as an excuse. But how to be rid of the guilt?
The thought then came to me that when I feel such resistance to saying yes there could be a good reason. Perhaps someone else is hoping for an opportunity to serve and my saying no just might be a gift that answers someone else’s prayer. Or it may be that the requestor needs to solve their problem in a different way, or needs to learn something that my assistance would prevent them from learning. The reason may never be clear, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
The heart is a good indicator of what is right or wrong in a given moment. Saying yes with a cheerful heart is a good, energizing thing, but when the cheer is missing and the dread in your heart is weighing you down it may be that the best gift you can give is the gift of no.