When my daughter was small, I vowed to be a mother who governed with love and reason. I considered "no" an undesirable way to discipline. Then came the day when we were driving on a busy highway and the passenger door flew open. My daughter was delighted to see how far she could stretch to explore this new domain. Trying to steer the car and stop safely, I yelled, "NO!" Immediately, she sat down, and I maneuvered the car to a safe shoulder of the road. So much for never saying no.
Applying this lesson to my daily obligations, I found an interesting correlation. In wanting to be liked by others, and not wanting to be the bad guy, I hardly ever said no. So I often overextended myself. I would agree to do things that I later resented because I didn't have time. And sometimes my efforts weren't even appreciated. I needed to find a solution better than just automatically saying no to everything, so I began to pray.
I prayed daily to be guided to where I would be able to use my talents and be the most effective. As I did this, I found that it was important to consider my relationship to God first, and to let that be the basis for relating to others. This meant, ultimately, serving God - doing what I felt was most in line with God's purpose for me - and trusting Him to guide me in that direction whenever I was asked to do something.
This wasn't always easy. Sometimes people would insist that I was the one to do a particular task. This was a warning sign for me to stop and reflect. Was the flattery of thinking, They're right, I am the best person to do this job, really correct?
What was my motive for saying yes - to be liked by others or maybe to avoid feeling guilty by saying no? I realized that only God could make me confident of my own true worth, and I learned to trust that no one could suffer if I declined certain jobs and accepted others.
It was great to see other people step in and do things that they might not otherwise have been asked to do, and that gave them opportunities to shine and grow. Seeking to feel closer to God, and not caring so much about receiving the accolades of others, I began to expand my commitments into areas I hadn't tried before.
I liked something I read by the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, about forsaking matter for Spirit. This doesn't mean losing touch with the world or neglecting other people's needs. As she put it in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace" (pg. 265).
As I made the commitment to put God first, to pray and listen for His direction, I stopped being motivated by guilt. I found that the activities that were right for me became more obvious. The Apostle Paul explained it this way: "...by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (II Cor. 8:14).
I have a clearer sense now of when to say no and when to say yes. A loving no doesn't deprive anyone. An honest yes blesses me and everyone. Is there a right time to say no? Yes!
When a man's
ways please the
Lord, he maketh
even his enemies
to be at peace with
him. Better is a little
than great revenues
without right. A man's
heart deviseth his
way: but the Lord
directeth his steps.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society