No more stitches (Learning how to say “No”)
I have this innate and possibly troublesome tendency to want to see everyone around me happy… always.
I figure, if everyone’s happy… there’s no conflict… we all live in peace… and it’s magical. THE END.
I wish that were true. The reality is that I’ve come to realize three things about trying to make everyone happy:
(1) It’s not possible.
(2) It doesn’t work.
(3) When this is the motivation behind my decisions, I end up hurting myself in order to please others.
I refer to this last point as — “needing stitches”.
So, let’s back up a little bit.
If 2 weeks ago someone was to ask me the question, “Martay, are you a people-pleaser?” - I would have said, “no, not me.”
You know, I have a whole list to prove how I know I’m not into pleasing people.
Here’s the start of it —
(1) I don’t get nervous at the thought of what people might often be thinking about me…
(2) I don’t typically ask for much advice when making decisions…
(3) I don’t get consumed with the thought of rejection from others…
BUT THEN, last week hit and I had a major realization.
I was exhausted from running around from meeting to meeting, person to person, project to project.
I was going and going… And to be quite honest, I didn’t even know why…
Until I came to a breaking point last Friday.
I was in my car getting ready to help someone else out who had asked me to help him. My eyes were burning because I was so tired from lack of sleep the night before (staying up to do projects for others), I felt loopy, had a pretty fierce breakout (these seem to come to me when I don’t get much sleep) and I could feel myself starting to get bitter at my situation.
Most of all: I hadn’t had time alone with God in a long time and I was loosing proper perspective.
I was tired and frankly, wanted to do nothing but give up.
But, here I was having to meet up with someone because I said I’d help out.
[Insert Martay's unhappy face on the verge of tears here]
Now, while I could have taken a cheap shot at the person I was helping, I realized it wasn’t his fault.
Yes, sure… he didn’t take my first “no” as my final answer and pushed me to say “yes”. But, the reality of this situation is that my crazy state of being (I’m pretty sure I looked crazy) and my lack of sleep was because of ME.
That’s right — MEEEEEEE.
I had one problem and it was the fact that I didn’t know how to say the word “no” and stick to it.
For some reason, I found myself always dreading having to say no to people… to the point where I was truly hurting myself in order to “help” others.
We have a people pleaser on isle 2. Her name is Martay.
Me. Yes, me. Little ol’ me had been in the industry of people-pleasing for quite a while now (and definitely feeling the effects of it), but somehow missed the memo that I was doing this.
I think my knack for wanting to always please people and make them happy comes from a pure place.
I really do want to see people happy. Just as I’m sure God longs to see us all full of joy, peace and hope.
I truly believe my desire to see others happy is a godly one.
BUT, and there is a but - My desire to see others happy does not mean that I have to be the solution to everyone’s need, problem or project.
In fact, me trying to give everyone exactly what I think they need is a little bit like I’m trying to fill the role of God in their lives.
So, back on track: how do we know when we should say “no” or “not now” to people asking us for favors, projects or opportunities? Well, I’m glad you asked because I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.
The following are 4 filters to decide whether or not to say “no” when faced with a decision or opportunity:
(1) You know it will burn you out
Jesus said that he came so we could have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). When someone has an abundance of something, this means that they’re able to share… right? It’s hard to share life when we’re burnt out from being over involved and over committed.
I mean, just think about the last time you were burnt out. How kind and cheery were you? If you ask me, I was DEFINITELY not cheery and excited to walk in love.
If this is you, don’t worry. I was just there last week. All you have to do is sit down and make some important decisions. What do you need to give up to have abundant life be exuding out of you?
(2) It goes against what God already told you
I don’t know what it is, but I often find myself dealing with something I like to call “spiritual amnesia”. I know what I should be doing… I know what my time should be dedicated to… and I know God spoke to me about my priorities… but then the simple guilt trip from one person makes me forget that and rethink everything I used to be so certain of.
Have you ever experienced this?
Maybe it’s not a guilt trip for you, but a more enticing opportunity or a fear of being left out. It’s ok to be certain of what you’ve heard if you really believe it was God. Don’t let your eyes or the determination of others suck you in to saying yes to things you know you shouldn’t (or really don’t want to) be a part of.
(3) You don’t feel peace when praying about it
This one is huge for me! Sometimes I don’t have the perfect reason why I can’t be a part of something, but I can tell I’m not meant to be a part of it because I simply don’t feel peace about it. Or to put it another way: I feel anxiety at the thought of it while praying.
God is in the business of leading his people by peace. I love what He says in Isaiah 55:12 -
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”
There’s absolutely no better way to be led.
(4) It leaves you hurting (in need of stitches)
Paul in the bible talks about how when we give, our goal is equality: to give when we have the capacity or leading to do so… and then be GIVEN TO when we’re in need (2 Cor 8:14). There comes a point in every giver’s life when they become weak and need the tables to turn… you know, when they need others to in turn give to them or when they need to be rejuvenated through rest.
The problem is that most of us fail to recognize when our season or window of giving closes and it’s time to trust that God will take it from where we left off. And to take it even further many people we find ourselves helping don’t know when to stop taking.That’s when many of us end up getting hurt and needing stitches.
Sometimes we start off well in a giving situation and then a few days, weeks or months go by and we're no longer in a healthy position.
The shift can happen abruptly.
With it often happening so quickly, how do we avoid this shift? Well, I believe we just have to stay focused on searching out the heart of the the one who called us to the task in the first place. When it’s time to be done, He is faithful to let us know clearly.
And when He lets us know, we get to avoid the stitches.
Nobody likes stitches.
So, there you have it. I just gave you my 4 filters that I use when grappling with decisions and commitments I’m asked to make. I’m learning how to say the two letter word “no”.
Not just because I want to say it, but because there is power in my “no”… especially in the busy era we live in.
“No” can bring rest.
“No” can bring better perspective.
“No” can allow us to walk in the fullness of abundant life.
Where might you need to say “no” in your life right now? I know that I can think of quite a few places for myself.
Until next time enjoy my cover of the song “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes (located at the top of this post). I think it’s almost a perfect depiction of a lot of the situations I’ve gotten myself in by not saying “no”. I can relate 100%.
May you lose all fear of saying “no”,
xO - Martay