Leadership: Say “No”

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No, No” Matthew 5:37a

During instruction concerning the taking of oaths, Jesus gives the command of Matthew 5:37. Through this passage Jesus is saying, “Don’t make oaths that you may not be able to keep, simply do what you say you are going to do. That is all that is required of you.”

The level of integrity expressed in his teaching, raises the power of a “Yes” or “No.”

As a young Christian and single woman, I was completely engulfed in ministry. I was living out 1 Corinthians 7:34a to the fullest, splitting time between evangelism outreach, gospel choir, tutoring, non-profit Chaplaincy, and other volunteer work. The problem is that I didn’t properly reassess my commitments after I got married as required by 1 Corinthians 7:34b. I was always “On” like a crazy woman. Furthermore, I felt it my duty as a Christian to answer with a “Yes” whenever someone in the church requested something of me. I was on the way to burn-out and that is the inevitable result of over commitment, a lack of focus, and a lack of wisdom.

God has created each of us to be uniquely gifted and talented. Nobody else can do what I can do in the exact way that I would do it, and the same applies to you and your giftedness. Likewise, we cannot effectively exercise all of our skills at the same time. At any season in life, God may call us to focus on specific areas of ministry or giftedness, and if we are obedient to his leading, it requires that we say, “No” to other areas of interest (which may include things that we are excited about and gifted in). In the above situation for example, someone could have counseled me to take a sabbatical from ministry within the church to divert my attention and invest in my marriage (reference Deuteronomy 24:5).

In the same manner, I have learned that the word “No” rarely makes the recipient happy.  Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No, No.” The power of your “No” is the simplicity of how you state it. Once the decision has been made, your “No” does not need a justification. When you attempt to justify your “No” the recipient feels empowered to negotiate with you. Take authority of your “No” with love and confidence and render it with compassion and respect.

I recently had this conversation with my sister when she called for advice for how to handle a challenging situation. After she explained the scenario, it was clear that she needed to respond with a “No.” Then she started justifying her “No” to me. (Understand, I’m on her team and in support of her “No.”) I then explain to her that “No” is her decision to make and she does not have to justify that decision to anyone. “No” is a statement all by itself.

Within the church in particular, I have seen some well intentioned Christians respond to “No” in a not so pleasant manner. Sometimes the response can be manipulative (an attempt to make you feel bad about your “No”) or even deceptive (maybe make the same request of you in a different way in hopes of receiving a “Yes” from you). The point is, when you say “No” to one thing, you are actually saying “Yes” to something else. We are not as effective when we are doing tasks that we only feel compelled to do. Furthermore, fulfilling those tasks puts us out of reach from where we can truly exercise the uniqueness of our gifts for the uplifting of the kingdom in that particular season of our lives.

In summary, there are a few things for all leaders to consider:

  • Pray to ask God about where you may need to prune or prioritize. (Trimming)
  • Know that just because he has gifted you in a particular area does not mean that you are to always function in that capacity. (Timing)
  • Understand that just because someone asks you to do something does not mean that you have to do it. Oftentimes, the same people frequently get asked to do stuff because other leaders know that you are competent and will get the job done. On the other hand, you may simply be an escape to avoid their challenge of reaching out, taking a risk, and training others. (Training)

Focus: Pray – Prune – Prioritize

Analyze: Trimming – Timing – Training

How are your P’s and T’s?

You may also like:

Share your Prayer for Leaders – Beth Moore’s Prayer for Young Leaders

New to the Leadership thing? Be discouraged. – This Woman’s Call to Leadership

© Natasha L. Robinson 2011

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