Have you ever been offered an amazing opportunity, only to get that feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing you need to say no? Of course, sometimes the timing is just off or you’ve already committed to other things and the only reasonable answer to an invitation or opportunity is no.
But we’ve all found ourselves jumping through hoops of justification, haven’t we? Convincing ourselves that saying yes is really the prudent thing, what with the worthiness of the cause or the flattery of the offer.
This happened twenty years ago when my husband Andy and I were starting our church. I was raising three young kids, homeschooling our oldest for kindergarten, and juggling all the details of young family life, so I didn’t have much margin for adding to-dos to the to-do list. As conversations began about what the church’s women’s ministry would look like, I was approached about joining the team.
Now I could come up with dozens of justifications for saying yes—I’m not making a long-term commitment, it’s just important for me to help get the ministry started. I could have a significant impact on so many women! But I had already committed to homeschooling our son, and I could not do both jobs well. I had to say no for now.
Helping Yourself Say No
What dulled the ache of saying no to such a great opportunity was realizing that my no for now did not have to mean no forever. As my kids got older and more independent, I eventually did have the margin to launch a ministry around a passion I hadn’t yet discovered all those years ago—caring for foster children. So where do you need the reminder that a no for now does not have to mean no forever? These three steps may help.
1. Listen for Excuses
When you catch yourself explaining why you’re late (again) or why you haven’t had time to tackle something yet (but promise it’s on the top of your to-do list!), you’ve likely found something that needs a no for now.
2. Find the Fear
Hiding behind your clever justifications may be fear—of missing out, falling behind, or disappointing others. Dig for what’s really driving you to want to say yes. Exposing this fear so often loosens its grip.
3. Think in Seasons
When the days are long it can be hard to remember that the years are short. But framing your time as seasons makes it easier to appreciate the ebb and flow of your capacity. A season with more margin will eventually arrive.
Learn to Create Breathing Room in Your Life
Watch a Free 4-Part Study on Breathing Room
Download the free Breathing Room app on the App Store or Google Play to watch Sandra Stanley’s newest women’s study or read more about it at breathingroom.org.
About the Author
Sandra Stanley is a mom of three grown children and the wife of Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries. She’s a foster mom with a passion for promoting foster care in the local church, an organizing ace, a health nut, and a wannabe gardener with a brownish thumb. Sandra is the author of two women’s studies, Comparison Trap, and her newest release, Breathing Room.