The Art of the Graceful “No”

In his letter to the Colossian Church, Paul give some timeless advice… “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).

If you have ever spent much time around toddlers, you know that they have a favorite word… “Will you pick up the toy?” “NO!” “Are you ready for your nap?” “NO!” “Do you want a million dollars?” “NO!”

Toddlers do not have trouble using this word. Obviously, they struggle with knowing when the right time is to use the word “no,” but unfortunately, so do many of us.

“Yes,” And “No.”

Of course we don’t run around like toddlers screaming, “No!” to every question. Often, however, what we do as Christians, parents, teachers and ministers is to run around willy nilly using the word, “Yes,” too often; even when we should be saying, “No.”

God’s To Do List

Ours is a culture of do, do, do. We tend to equate doing with being a better person. Whoever is doing the most is obviously the “better” Christian, parent, teacher or minister. The problem with OUR to do list comes when it gets filled with things that are not on GOD’S to do list.

God cares about your to do list. He wants to guide you every day in your tasks and how you spend your time. The problem is that many of us do not give Him the time of day, literally, to speak to us and guide us on what we should be doing. When we take quiet time alone with God each day, He will speak to our hearts and let us know exactly what we need to be doing and what we do not need to be doing.

When To Say No

When God is guiding our to do list, there will come times when others may ask us to do something that God has not led us to do. This can create an awkward situation. Adults generally do not like telling each other no. The problem is, though, if we say yes to everything then we are going to get burned out and discouraged. And the worst part is we will go through the motions of service with no joy and no real impact because our spirit isn’t right. This is a waste of everyone’s time. If God did not put it on your to do list, then say no.

How to Say No

“No” is literally the foundation of all things negative. No wonder we are uncomfortable using it. There is, however, a way to use a graceful “no.” If you want to keep relationships intact, then the “graceful no” is a must.

Use gentleness. If you give your no with a harsh attitude it will definitely be taken the wrong way. Start gently. Thank the person for considering you.

Be honest. Don’t ever make up lies to get out of doing something. Always be honest. God isn’t leading you to participate in that right now? Say so. “God isn’t leading me to participate in that right now.” Has God revealed something He’d rather you do with that time? Share that with the person.

Keep the door open. Make sure the individual knows that things may change in the future, and that this doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be interested in serving later. Just not this thing RIGHT NOW.

Saying no is easier for some people than it is for others. If you struggle with this, pray for strength, so that you can use your time and energy for the things God has picked for you. And, remember Paul’s admonition… “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Sarah Reeves

You can see all of the articles by Sarah on Sunday School Zone.

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