Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NO Is Not a Four-letter Word: Setting Boundaries for Good

Oh, boogars. I thought I made it clear that I didn’t want to be an officer of the Missionary Mamas again. Now they’ve gone and nominated me for secretary. Dawn says no one else is willing to take it,”  I whined to my husband.

            “Just say no, Jeanette. It's not a four-letter word. These ladies know you are writing two books, working a full-time job, teaching a Sunday School class and leading worship. Plus, feeding our houseful of cats takes up the rest of your spare time.” He ducked as I threw a pillow at him.

“They’ll understand. And if they don’t, oh well. You can’t be all things to all women.”

            “But what if no one else will take the office?”

            You are not solely responsible for filling the offices for the Missionary Mamas, Honey. And if no one fills the offices, maybe it’s time to end that ministry. Perhaps its mission is fulfilled.”

            I trudged to the phone to call Dawn. My chest felt heavy, knowing I was going to disappoint her. Yet I needed to let God lead me, not the needs and desires of others. Kevin was right. She did understand. Two days later, they’d found someone else willing to serve.  
      I’ve never had an easy time saying “no.” Yes is such a pleasant word, a fun word to say. It’s the word autumn leaves make when they dance before the Lord in the afternoon sun. It’s what you tell the minister on your wedding day when he says, “Do you take…?” Doesn’t it make everyone happy when you say “yes?”


I had to learn that saying “yes” when I needed or wanted to say “no” was an excuse for not setting boundaries. With my kids when they wanted to stay up too late or watch too much TV. With my students when they treated me disrespectfully. And with those we pastored when they wanted me to lead vacation Bible school, write newspaper ads for the fall revival, and sing solos every Sunday.

None of those things are wrong. But if I say “yes” to them to please people, I leave God out of the equation. I fail to fulfill the role He has mapped out for me. And I hinder whomever He has called to do those things.
           When I have the courage to set healthy boundaries, I enjoy the things God has told me to say “yes” to. I give others the opportunity to grow in their areas of expertise and develop courage to try new things they weren’t brave enough to try before, because “Jeanette always does that.”

I may not be as popular as I was in my “yes” days. But my heart sings with the freedom that results from saying “no.”

How is your No-ometer working these days? Do you need to practice saying "no" more often, or are you adept at setting boundaries for good?


  1. Oh I used to struggle with this so much. But I feel I'm doing what God wants me to do and I need the time to do it.

  2. This is an excellent post, Jeanette. I have learned to not say "yes" right away and I have also learned to not say "no" right away. I usually respond that I will give it some thought and pray about it. Then, I am fine with saying "no" if I need to.

  3. So important for us to ask God first before responding but not always easy! I need to check my heart first before I answer. Am I saying no or yes to either retreat or stay busy? Or for God?

  4. Hi Jeanette! Oh boy, this was totally me up to about two years ago. I would make myself miserably unhappy by always stepping up to fill in the gaps. All the things I did were very worthy, just like your options. But it's just too much. My life and breath is worth a thought too.

    Now, I try to make a better set of priorities for myself and run with that. I just said no to a friend who wanted my help (ahem), and no to volunteering for an overnight homeless shelter. I'd been doing that for over 12 years, but it was time to step back. It's so HARD to do. But I know it's better.
    Best of blessings on your way to 'no'!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Ceil. Yes, it is very hard, but harder still to be stuck on "yes," when you should say "no."

  5. It is hard to set boundaries and say no, and then I fight the guilt about having said no. It's a Catch-22 that the enemy delights in snaring me. But, like you said, it takes courage to say no, then stick to it, and I have gotten better over the years. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  6. This is wisdom, pure and simple!


Oh, it's YOU! I'm so happy to see you here today, and look forward to reading your comments.