Learning to say “No.”

I opened my email one morning to find three three evites to three different functions. I instantly began to feel my blood pressure rising. What was I needing to go to now?

Don’t get me wrong, I am actually a fairly social person. I love getting together with people. But even with my people-loving self, I have need for margin. Space. And I definitely feel that our calendar needs to be freed of “events” as much as possible.

One reason I keep our calendar free of regularly scheduled events is so that I can keep my priorities with family time. I also know that things come up last minute, and when you have an already full schedule and something comes up last minute, it can often be the toppling point of sanity. With a fairly clear schedule, the unexpected things don’t seem to be so overwhelming.

Anyway, back to my inbox. I didn’t open them. I went about my usual morning activities, all the while stressing in the back of my mind about those events…whatever they were.

Maybe, I thought, they are all on the same day, and I’ll only be able to go to one because I have a schedule conflict. A schedule conflict seemed a more acceptable excuse than simply saying “no.”

Turns out they weren’t all on the same day. They were on three different Saturdays. I knew I didn’t want to give up three precious Saturdays, our only family time, to events that I didn’t really care about. I’ll just say I’m too busy to do all of them, I reasoned. Being too busy seemed a more acceptable excuse than simply saying “no.”

But being too busy wasn’t really true either. Because, technically, I didn’t have anything going on. If it is important enough, I will make time. Simple as that.

Brian came home later that day and I shared with him my angst over this decision. “I don’t want to go to all of them, but which one do I go to, blah, blah, blah.” He calmly just told me to not go to any of them if I didn’t want to. End of story? Not quite.

For a couple days I held off giving my no. My people-pleasing self was turning inside out trying to figure out how to say no. I needed an excuse. It seemed more acceptable that way. Or did I?

It is my time. It is my money (one event was a home sales type party). It is my priorities. I simply needed to say no.

Now, I am not advocating that we live a selfish life, only consumed with us and our families. There are plenty of times when we adjust our schedules to accommodate other people. If it falls in line with other priorities such as church family, loving our neighbor, hospitality, relationship-building, being generous to those in need, etc., we happily adjust our schedules.

But if a social event does not align with any of our family priorities, is irrelevant to me or my family, or I am just doing it because I have put myself on a guilt-trip, I need to just say “no.”

There are a lot of miserable and very busy people in life, going from one activity, one event, and one good thing to another. The problem is not the event or activity. The problem is that we cannot do it all. We have to choose. If you cannot slow down enough to evaluate what your priorities are, it will be difficult to know when it is time to say “no.”

But when you do know your priorities, you have something to hold each new event up to. Your family’s purpose and mission becomes a checklist for what activities you do or don’t do. And then you can say “no.” Any time I have given a gracious “no,” I have never been scoffed at (at least to my face!). People understand that we can’t do it all.

So we choose. And I give my answer with confidence and without guilt. (Most of the time, anyway 😉 ).

Do you have trouble saying “no?” Certainly, I am not the only one! :)


  1. I only have trouble saying “no” when I start thinking of all the people who might be disappointed/annoyed/upset with me if I do. As a pastor’s wife, I find this particularly hard because sometimes I feel like I’m expected to go to everything. Thankfully my husband is very supportive of me saying “no” to things. We too filter our schedule with the priority of family time.

    • I can imagine that that is tricky, Steph. It’s so good, though, that you and your husband are on the same page. That helps a lot!

  2. This post could not have been more timely for some things I’m currently facing in my life right now and I’m (slowly!) learning that it’s not only ok to say “No.”, often it is the best thing I can do for my family and myself.

    I love how you worded this, “With a fairly clear schedule, the unexpected things don’t seem to be so overwhelming.” That is so true.

    I chuckled to myself in reading the exchange between you and your husband because it sounded so similar to what my husband says to me in similar situations! =)

  3. My mom prays for me about this. Ahem. I make up things for myself to do without even being asked! Maybe I’ll learn someday.


  1. […] important part of living simply is learning to say no to activities as well as clutter. We just can’t do it […]

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