No.

There, I said it.

It felt great.

It’s a word that needs to be said often.

I’m not talking about disciplining children (my kids hear “no!” plenty in that context).

I’m talking about the personal spiritual discipline of saying “no” so that we can more fully say “yes.”

Consider these words from M. Shawn Copeland in Practicing Our Faith (Jossey-Bass):

“[S]pirituality is not a spectator activity. Tough decisions and persistent effort are required of those who seek lives that are whole and holy. If we are to grow in faithful living, we need to renounce the things that choke off the fullness of life that God intended for us . . . We must learn the practice of saying no to that which crowds God out and yes to a way of life that makes space for God.”

It’s a topic I’ve written about before, but I find it’s something I need to regularly remind myself about: how critical it is to know what you want to say “yes” to with your life (physical and emotional energy, time, focus, passion) so that you can feel a freedom and confidence in saying “no” to many other demands. Saying yes and saying no thoughtfully and intentionally enable us to take seriously what it means to “be” — to live our one and only life in a meaningful and significant way.

Our yes must be not only for spiritual things — I believe the full-life God wants for us is a whole-person life. A life including the mind, the arts, culture, entertainment, leisure, work. (There certainly is such a thing as an unhealthy level of involvement in ministry!)

Are there yeses in your life that you’ve committed to out of guilt or people-pleasing or a wrongly placed sense of obligation? Might you need to reconsider those activities or involvements?

What are the yeses you truly desire to say? Yes to certain friendships or relationships? Yes to more family chill time? Yes to a ministry involvement that better fits your calling or passion? Yes to a more freed-up schedule (so you’re not a harried mess when you parent)? Yes to time for your own creative expression (writing, poetry, painting, and so on) or your own intellectual growth (reading)? Yes to more sleep? Yes to exercise? Yes to intentional time with God (even if it is in small bits of time scattered throughout a day or a week)?

To live a life that says the right yeses, we must develop the fortitude to say no — even to very good things. M. Shawn Copeland rightly asks “[A]re we really ready to exert ourselves?”

Lord, give me the strength to say no so that I can intentionally and purposefully say yes!

What about you? What do you desire to say yes to in your life? How can you make room for that yes?

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One response to “No.

  1. We moved this summer. It was a wonderful exercise- a forced “no.” We came with an empty house and an empty calendar. I got to remember what that kind of space felt like, and be more thoughtful about how I filled it up. It has been a wonderful year of space and new adventures.

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