Protect Yourself with the Power of “NO.”

We want to help. We think we should help. Sometimes “helping” is enabling and when it is, we have to say “No.” This is especially hard when the person who asks is an adult child or another beloved relative.  We want to protect them (even from their own decisions) and that wish pulls on one side of our hearts. Pulling on the other side is the knowledge that continuing to give is like pouring oil on a flame. The wish and the knowledge pull so hard in opposite directions that we can almost feel our hearts ripping apart. The pain can be overwhelming. While giving may lessen the pain for a moment, it causes long-term agony as we end up empty and the other person, crippled. We drain our resources (emotions, finances, possessions, other relationships, space, and time) and other people do not learn that they can stand on their own feet.

What if someone asks us to take on a responsibility and says there is no one else to do it or no one who can do it as well as we can? We are already up to our chins in responsibility. Still, we overcommit. Whom are we trying to please or impress? To whom are we trying to prove our worth? Whose love and admiration are we trying to buy? No matter what we do, we can’t buy admiration, approval, or love.  We just increase our stress. Weariness and poor concentration lead to mistakes, poor performance, and the shame of disappointing people…and ourselves.

Whether it’s the adult child asking to be rescued again, the pastor who wants to you chair yet another ministry, or a stranger asking for something in the street, you must protect your heart. When you need to say “No,” try one of these responses.

  • “Let me get back to you on that.” Learn not to answer immediately. No matter what the person says, it is YOUR time. Take it. Decide whether the request fits into your plan or siphons off your resources, endangering other responsibilities and relationships. By taking this time, you can explore why you want to say “yes” and whether the outcome will be positive or negative for you or the person who asks.
  • “No, thank you.” People expect you to give a cheerful “yes.” When you say, “No, thank you” with a big smile, they are confused long enough for you to walk away.
  • “That’s not in my life plan right now.”  “I don’t want to” is enough reason to say “No” (you’re grown, right?). Even so, this response (and a big smile) is an effective follow-up, if you believe you need one.

One affirmation in my new book, Dear Lauren, Love Mom: 31 Days of Affirmation for My Daughter, for Myself, and for YOU, further explores the power of “No.” The affirmation also quotes what I heard the gifted musician and activist, Nina Simone, say in concert. “ You can use up everything you’ve got trying to give everybody what they want.” Get your copy of Dear Lauren, Love Mom at Give copies to everyone you love and want to encourage. Make sure one of those people is YOU.

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