How did you respond the last time someone asked you to do something you really didn’t want to do? Did you take time to think about it? Did you politely decline? Did you swallow your objections and say yes to avoid making waves?
As Catholic Christian women, we often want to say yes to every opportunity God puts in front of us and every friend in need. Saying no sometimes comes with a host of negative feelings like hesitation, doubt, and guilt.
But is saying yes all the time really what God is asking of us? Is being a “yes woman” really the most loving way to live?
I would argue that no, it’s not! If we’re to become the people God is calling us to be, we need to learn to be discerning. We need to invite the Lord into our decisions, big and small.
By saying yes to everyone and everything, we effectively abdicate responsibility for our decisions. Rather than being intentional about pursuing the goals and relationships God has willed for us, we allow the requests of others to be our guide.
Why We Say Yes
What drives you to say yes to that friend who needs a ride to the airport an hour before you have an important exam? Sure, it might be because you love her and you want to show up for her. But if you dig a little deeper, you might find some other motivations influencing you.
Oftentimes, we say yes to things that aren’t meant for us for one of three reasons: FOMO, shoulds, and people pleasing.
FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, drives us to say yes when we’re scared of not being a part of certain experiences or relationships. We may fear that if we decline an invitation, we’ll be left with feelings of regret as soon as we see our friends’ photos posted on social media the next day. But fear is not a tool that our loving Heavenly Father employs to influence our decision making.
Another reason we might say yes to something we don’t want to do is because we think we should. It may in fact be true that God is calling you to do something you don’t particularly want to do. After all, following God sometimes involves doing things we don’t particularly enjoy.
This doesn’t mean, however, that a distaste for doing something is a reliable indication that God is calling us to do it.
The spiritual life is full of trials, and each and every day, Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses. But he doesn’t ask us to take on every cross we stumble upon.
Finally, we’re compelled to say yes when we allow our decision-making to be ruled by other people’s opinions of us. This is also known as people pleasing, and as a former people-pleaser myself, I can lovingly tell you that the opinions of others are none of your business! We were created to serve God, not man.
Reasons to Say No
How do we know when to say yes and when to say no? It’s a question that doesn’t have a simple, foolproof answer. Being human means we’re bound to make mistakes and blunders no matter how hard we try to make good decisions.
Thankfully, we have a loving and merciful God who died to save us for that very reason. He knows about our propensity to misuse our free will. He never gives up on us, and He’s delighted by even our feeblest efforts to do His will.
An obvious time to say no is when we’re faced with an opportunity to sin. When we sin, we make the deliberate choice to go against what God is asking of us. We decide that some other influence, like our own desire, is more important than God’s desire.
Another reason to say no to someone’s requests is if you must compromise your needs to accommodate his or her wants. While true love often demands sacrifice, being selfless and giving doesn’t require you to accommodate another’s preferences at the expense of your own livelihood.
We’re often taught that no is negative, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Saying no is an act of love – for others and for ourselves. It creates boundaries and upholds standards.
Pray to have a discerning heart, one that is capable of speaking the truth in love, even when it’s difficult. We have to get good at saying no if we want to be able to give authentic yeses.
So, the next time someone asks you to do something, take a minute to loop God into your decision-making process. Growing in discernment means growing as a disciple, allowing each decision to move you closer and closer to uniformity with God’s will for your life.
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Erica lives in San Diego, California with her four pet chickens. She’s a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and is the Owner of Seedling Site Shop, a website design & copywriting resource for purpose-driven brands. When she’s not writing, she’s likely playing in the waves at the beach, cooking vegan recipes, taking a spin class, or watching great movies.