Let's be honest, saying no is hard. There's a sense of guilt that comes with it. I am reminded of a scene from the movie 27 dresses, where Kevin [the male lead], is trying to teach Jane [the female lead] how to say no to things. The scene goes like this:
Kevin: [helping Jane practice saying no] Jane, give me fifty bucks.
Kevin: Jane it's 50 bucks. I'll pay you back.
Kevin: [takes Jane's hand] Jane... I *need* you to give me fifty bucks.
Jane: hesitantly] No?
Kevin: Eh... not bad.
Saying No And Boundaries
Saying no is way to establish a clear boundary. What are boundaries you ask? Generally speaking, the purpose of a boundary is to limit what you let in. In a very literal sense, you have boundaries like fences or locked doors that act as protection for your property. Without having a boundary in place, anyone could just walk into your yard whenever they want to. However by establishing clear and defined boundaries, you get to decide who comes into your yard, and when they are allowed access. The same applies to the boundaries in our personal lives. Boundaries allow us to have self control of who and what we let into our space. Dr. Henry Cloud, one of the authors of the book "Boundaries" speaks on this "Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership."
Using a fence metaphor, Dr. Cloud explains it in this way:
"We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out."
Yes Means Yes, No Means No
Saying no draws a line between what you're okay with and what you're not okay with. It's an active way to take control of your life. Saying yes to everything under the sun will lead to burnout. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells his disciples "Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.'" (Matt 5: 37). Our time is meant to be used intentionally. Both in our work and our rest. Yes you read that right, resting is just as important as working. Otherwise how will we ever have enough energy? We're finite creatures. We don't run on an endless supply of fuel. For God, it's different. He's infinite and all powerful. Nothing can limit Him. But for us, we all have our limits. It's part of our reality as humans. We get tired and burn out.
Saying No Is Intentional
You have to say no to some things, to say yes to others. That's perfectly okay. When we say yes, yes, yes to everything, we get spread really thin. It's exhausting. I like to use a digging analogy. Saying yes to everything is like digging random holes all over the place. It's not really aimed at anything in particular, and it expends a lot of energy. Versus when we say no, we're more intentional. Instead of digging all over the place, there's a defined digging area. Which allows you to dig deeper. Focusing on doing what makes you come alive. See the difference? You can either dig a bunch of shallow holes, or dig deep, intentional ones. In digging deeper, you can discover your purpose. There's something to be said about those activities which are energizing, empowering, and helpful to others. Stand up comedian and best selling author, Jen Fulweiler calls this "Your Blue Flame." Personally I would call it the spiritual gifts you've been given by God.
Using the Gifts You've Got
You've been given a unique purpose and mission. You know, that thing you were put on this earth to do. Half the battle is figuring out what that thing is, then the other half is figuring out how to do it. I often hear people talk about the metaphorical "tools in your tool belt" that make doing your work easier. Working smarter not harder. The gifts you've been given by God are just that. These gifts can never be taken away from you. They equip you with what you need to carry out the mission for your life. A mission that you and only you can fulfill. If you don't do it, it will remain left undone. That's how important you are to God. Uniquely and wonderfully made. God wants to work with you. He wants to help you achieve the plan that He has for your life. He wants you to be happy.
Saying Yes To Your Purpose
At this point I am guessing you're guessing where I am going with this. How does pursuing purpose, relate to saying yes and no to things? It actually has a lot to do with it. The first step is to identify what activities make you come alive. Generally speaking, it will be something you have a great passion for and that will help other people. Doing this thing might not even feel like work. That's when you know you have found your "blue flame". Here's where saying no comes into play. Working towards your purpose requires discipline and establishing boundaries. Since we only have 24 hours in a day, this means saying no to things that don't serve you. The more you say no, the clearer your intentions and goals become. Well defined goals can act as a roadmap to what your priorities are, and how you are going to work towards your purpose. Asking yourself "is this thing helping me achieve my goals? Does it bring glory to God or help others? Answering these questions can be a good indicator. Saying no feels weird, and sometimes even wrong. But it allows you to say yes to your life's purpose. A two letter word with a big impact. It's worth it. You're worth it.