Saying 'NO' is Liberating

Your entire life story can be narrowed down to whether you say 'yes' or 'no'. 

Every day, every conversation, every meal, every game you play, each picture you post, they all require you to say yes to something and no to something else. 

I love it when people say yes, because that means you are opening a door to a new experience. But I also love it (maybe more) when people say no, because that can mean you know what you want and [this thing] is not it.


Let's talk about NO. 

The bad, the worst, and the best.

The bad side of no is when we are apathetic or entitled. 

It is said because you 'don't care'. You become so cynical that you turn away, even when facing a good opportunity to help. You are able, you have disposable time, money, energy, and your opinion matters to fix the problem but you decide to disengage. You are frustrated with the situation (work, church, marriage) but you do nothing about it.

This begins with a quiet 'no' and grows into active disengagement. You think they should have offered you a bigger raise, you are mad they didn't ask for your ideas, he left the dishes in the sink again, so you say 'no', I can't stay here, I won't discuss the issue, I'm done trying to help, and I might even try to convince others to come with me. (misery does love company).

The worst side of no is from a place of comparison. 

It is said because you are afraid of what others will think of you. It is said out of fear, worry, or anxiety. You might fail. You see the opportunity in front of you and turn away from it because you think you're not good enough to do the thing being asked of you. 

This is saying 'no' to selling your art. Saying 'no' to talking to the other parents at church or school drop off. This is saying 'no' to going back to school, taking a new job, or committing to a relationship...because you don't think you're [talented, cool, smart, sharp, worth] enough. 

This 'no' is from a lack of trust, or a false sense of what's in your hand. We say no because we think we wont be able to live up the expectations of others, and we feel like we don't have what it takes.

In How to be Here Rob Bell says, "We rob ourselves of immeasurable joy when we compare what we do know about ourselves with what we don't know about someone else."

The best no is said with confidence. 

This is not based on insecurities or disillusionment but because the thing you're facing is simply not what you're made for. You say 'no' to that fast food, another night of binge-watching Netflix, or spending another moment in an place or relationship that is destructive. You are starting to get an idea of what you ARE made for in this life, so you begin to say 'no' to anything distracting you from that.

The joy of no is being liberated to do what you are made for.

You are made to be a great father and husband so you put your dang phone down when your kids are at your feet or wife is with you! (this one is for me, folks). 

You are made to share what you have so you change your shopping habits and donate consistently to a great cause.

You are made to be a person of peace, love, and hope, so you resist any system that spreads a message of violence, hate, and fear. 

The best 'no' is about no longer doing something because it is what you ought to do. 

Henri Nouwen writes in his Genesee Diary, "As long as I am constantly concerned about what I 'ought' to say, think, do, or feel, I am still the victim of my surroundings and am not liberated. I am compelled to act in certain ways to live up to my self-created image. But when I can accept my identity from God and allow him to be the center of my life, I am liberated from compulsion and can move without restraints."

Last post I mentioned that a few years ago I said 'no' to something, in order to say yes to something else. I was a Youth Pastor for 10 years in a fantastic church. Yet, something was awakening within me revealing that this was not the best path for our family anymore. As Karen and I talked about it, she was recognizing the same thing and we decided to say 'no' to staying there any longer. The beauty of it all is that when we say 'no' we are also saying 'yes' to something else.

When we say no in confidence we are saying yes to opening a new door. 

Creating something beautiful (be it a piece of art, or a life) is all about subtraction. Anybody can vomit thoughts onto a page, or throw paint on the canvas, but the art is in knowing what to remove to let the best stand out.

I'm still learning this. As you might be able to tell from the length of this post.


I wonder, what beautiful adventure awaits you, if you find the confidence to say 'no'?