Learning to occasionally say no only means that we all have some limits

  • Written by Claudia Parker


I’ve felt overextended lately.

This exhaustion could possibly stem from giving heaping portions of myself to individuals that haven’t shown any gratitude. “You’re being taken advantage of,” said one family member. “Ya just working yourself into a frenzy -- learn how to say NO!”

While that may have been true in a few prior instances, it’s not common. I’m not naïve when it comes to discerning the intentions of others. Nevertheless, there are instances where we’re supposed to stretch ourselves for the sake of our fellow brethren. The 25th book of Matthew says, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

This is the doctrine I follow. Many of the miracles of Christ are carried out by ordinary folks who have a heart to hear the cries of the people. Some recipients will show gratitude and some will not. Those familiar with their Bible may have read the story of Jesus healing 10 men with leprosy and of them, a measly one of them rascals came back to say thank you.

Don’t we all appreciate hearing the ole’ ‘Atta girl! Thanks for all you’ve done’? Well, if it doesn’t get said you’re probably dealing with a descendant of the nine lepers who took their gift of healing and never looked back. That typically happens among those with a sense of entitlement. You could slave away on their behalf without a single acknowledgement because in their mind, either you or society owes them.

I have pity for any individual or organization holding true to this sentiment. When they over-utilize and take people for granted they’re inviting reciprocity in the same measure. However, we’re not helpless in these matters. We always have a choice. We’re not required to oblige every request that comes in our direction. No one should say yes to everything another person asks, especially if we’re being inconvenienced. People who know their value won’t allow unreasonable demands of others to impose on their lives.

It is an illogical thought to believe you will lose the approval of everyone you say no to. In actuality, you may gain their respect. It’s perfectly OK to communicate your wishes and establish boundaries. An example I like to share is when people used to ask me if they could borrow money. I’m not a bank and don’t make it my practice to lend money due to several prior promises-to-pay that defaulted. I stopped these said lending requests by saying, “I’m not in a position to ‘lend’ you $500, but I can give you $50 as a gift.” In this scenario I was offering help without risking a violation of trust if the loan wasn’t repaid. Using this method pretty much ceased these requests altogether.

That dam is dry!

However, some people can be aggressive. If their flattery fails, they may attempt to use manipulation to get what they want out of you. If and when this occurs honor yourself by communicating your needs and feelings clearly. No one should be made to feel guilty about denying a request they can’t accommodate. You can be assertive without being aggressive. Speak the truth in love. If you don’t do well with conflict, seek out a trusted friend or colleague to be a mediator.

Not everyone will take offense.

Discussing areas of concern often brings resolution. Sometimes you’re suffering silently for prolonged periods of time merely because it’s never been addressed. Speak up for yourself and your situation could change in an instant.

When you find yourself weary because you’ve been pouring into others, let it be because your heart has prompted you to do so. Even when it’s laborious, it’s worth it because you have a sense of fulfillment in knowing it was God’s leading. Galatians 6:9 tells says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Conversely, when optional assignments find themselves barging into your life, do not waiver. But let your communication be, “Yes, yes or no, no!” Matthew 5:37.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.