Week 4 Day 5: Saying No

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 5: Saying No
To what will you say ‘no’ in order to say ‘yes’ to what is most important?
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Transcript of Video:

There are so many good opportunities and yet I find the hardest thing is to say no and yet it’s also, I find, the healthy thing I am often called to. We have the delight of welcome guests into our home most days of the week – and yet we also have a Sabbath in which we don’t. We welcome guests and give them many opportunities – and yet we also define spaces where they cannot come. We give them many things – and yet we also find there are things we cannot give. People come needy and wanting things – and it’s hard to remember I have to say, “No,” that there are limits.

The same is true not necessarily with guests but also just my own experience of… well, most humanly, that I need sleep. That I have to stop. There is always more work to be done. I can make my body function on less sleep, but if I do it over and over again, everything suffers. So the boundary of actually going to bed on time or getting back on schedule when I have been off it is an ongoing lesson and challenge and yet it’s that choosing to stop, what must I say no to, that is actually the freeing “yes.” And I find that’s what I struggle with and that’s what people I listen to struggle with. What must I say “no” to so that I can actually be the most healthy?

– Br. Luke Ditewig


  1. Lisa Bartoli - De Angelis on April 3, 2019 at 11:28

    This is an excellent message to think about. For me there are two at the top of the list. One is to say NO to drinking too much wine. Say no after one glass because after that I do not sleep well and then everything suffers the next day including me.
    The second is about saying NO to a teen child when it is the right thing to do. Sometimes its hard to say No to request that in the end if they wait or work for helps them grow and me too. I try to give the message that Love does not mean saying yes all the time and sometimes it is out of love we have to say no.

  2. David W on December 3, 2017 at 19:35

    During my life in retirement, I have had to say no performing publicly, primarily because it has a way of consuming every waking hour for weeks ahead of a performance, to the exclusion of many things that are very important to my physical, mental and spiritual life. Above all, at this point in my life, I want to be of service to others, to have time for meditation, prayer and reading. I also feel the need to communicate with family and friends to a degree I have not be able in the past.

  3. Stan Lewis on March 6, 2017 at 09:32

    I will say no to those things that bring negativity to my life. I will say no to worry and anxiety, to the frenetic busyness dictated by the status quo. I will rest in God’s peace.

    • Chioma Nwaogu on January 29, 2021 at 21:22

      Henceforth I want to say no to demeaning attitudes, that have in the past poisoned and hindered my growth as a person loved by God and with dignity.

  4. Jaan Sass on October 29, 2016 at 02:14

    I am learning how to say no historically I ruined relationships because I would allow myself to be a doormat shewing away any confrontation. This has always led to destruction of relationships and myself. I am learning how to create boundaries in my life

  5. Linda on June 6, 2016 at 11:04

    I had to write my rule as a schedule to have more freedom. I put an assigned time at the end for bedtime. 9pm and definitely no later than 10 pm. It changed my whole perspective on life when I got quality sleep. Naps do not make up for messed up biorhythms. I also want to serve God volunteering, but health gets in the way and makes me unpredictable. So I still help some. I just tell them to “pencil” me in and put me as an assistant, not someone in charge. That takes all the worry out of it.

  6. Tony on March 6, 2016 at 20:13

    I always want to help my children, but sometimes I need to say “no” to give them boundaries, and teach them responsibility to own their decisions.

  7. a city monk on March 6, 2016 at 12:13

    This very question is how I discovered that I had an horarium but… it did not grow from a rule of life. Ye old cart before the horse. I’d only smoothed out the “when”, put some boundaries on the what, and over years of conflicting yes-s and no-s found myself seriously out of balance. Trying to find the root issue… I said yes to the heroic effort, while saying no to the invisibility of maintenance. Then as the influences and the confluence of aging settled in, the heroic effort left less and less availability for maintenance.
    So, it could be saying no a bundle of behaviors that are the right thing… for the wrong reasons. Saying no to self-deception, to lying to myself… Saying no to high visibility heroic efforts, and yes to humility. Saying no to the ‘comfort’ of living without a rule, and embracing the obedience and humility of living within a rule…

  8. Stan on March 5, 2016 at 17:52

    This is a great question to ponder. I have given up many thinks in my life in order to improve it. But that’s not quite the same thing a saying “no”. Right now, I think most need to make some time so that I can do a few exercises every day to help me strengthen my core muscles and my back. The easiest thing to do is probably to say no to the luxury of spending an extra half hour or so snuggling and snoozing with my wife every morning. Or perhaps I could say no to spending the amount of time I do on the computer in the evening. I need to say YES to myself to quit making excuses and do the exercises, as well as saying no to my procrastination and say yes and go find a physical therapist.

  9. Debbie on March 4, 2016 at 16:19

    No, you will not take advantage because you want something. I will not take on superficial friendships they are a waste of time. IF you expect me to do things for you you can not treat me like dirt. My time is valuable I am valuable and I am needed else where. Have a nice life. It will not include me.

  10. Muriel Akam on March 4, 2016 at 03:48

    I used to say yes to requests of help to prove that I was a nice person and also to listen to people’s problems . I then found I was being taken for granted and learned to be more discerning . At times I have regretted not helping others especially for monetary requests and this affected some relationships. Right now I want to help a cousin but do not wish to get embroiled in their family problems. It is hard and sad to see them squabble over family issues(inheritances).I help others with charity donations, help my daughter with looking after grandchilden etc. I have limited time so realise cannot do much but hope to encourage others to much needed independence and responsibility.

  11. gwedhen nicholas on March 3, 2016 at 20:44

    I spend my time and money on things which enhance my relationship with God, and my music ministry. I spend money on supporting SCAW (Sleeping children around the world), I support the brothers and also a Sisterhood in Toronto, I spend my money also on retreats and workshops to learn more about myself and God. I choose to not spend a lot of money on entertainment, going out for meals, spending a lot of time and money on secular activities.I direct my life so that my relationship withGod is the most important thing in my life.

  12. Suzanne on March 3, 2016 at 20:40

    Two important “yeses” are my daily quiet time with the Lord and spending time with my family. Having become a grandmother (finally!) two years ago, the time spent with the babies is precious time and that is flying past very quickly. I chose to say ‘no’ to a full 40-hour work week in order to have one full day to spend with the children.

  13. Kristi on March 3, 2016 at 16:41

    I think as a general rule if something is toxic to me, whether it be foods I put in my body or relationships I have in my life, then saying no is perfectly acceptable to do. Women especially seem to be encouraged at an early age to feel like they can do everything, which may be true for some, but not all. This can become a problem later in life when they feel like they can never say no to extra demands being put on their time, whether they work inside the home outside the home or both. If they say no somehow they see that as a failure, when in reality saying no may be the healthiest thing for them to do. As I get older I find it’s easier to say no because I’ve gotten rid of any guilt that I put on myself – I am my top priority.

  14. Carol Ward on March 3, 2016 at 14:36

    I’ve been saying ‘no’ to any volunteer opportunities that feed my ego. Twenty-five years ago, I could not say I did this. I’d take on things that I really didn’t love passionately just because they made me feel important. Now, thanks to the wisdom of age, I don’t need to feed ego. I just want to do good. Only certain kinds of projects really fit into this category so saying ‘no’ has become a whole lot easier. In a previous answer I talked about how important listening was in both my job & my family. I’m trying to listen to the Holy Spirit in my decision making. I making a conscious effort to hear, be open to ‘what the spirit is saying!’

  15. Eugene Wright on March 3, 2016 at 12:54

    I say no to things that are not spiritually profitable to me. I say no to waste of time but yes to time for rest . I say no to reading thrash but yes to reading scripture, meditating and prayer. I will sat no to hate and yes to openness and to all God’s children.

  16. Russell on March 3, 2016 at 11:35

    I will say “no” to my self-criticism so that I can say “yes” to the work my spiritual gifts are best suited for, I will say “no” to my ruthless compulsion to follow my impulses so that I can say “yes” to what God asks of me. I will say “no” to my codependence so that I might say “yes” to letting God heal those I ache to care for. I will say “no” to my isolation so that I can say “yes” to my community. I will say “no” to my guilt so that I can say “yes” to the time I spend in repose or in creative writing. I will say “no” to those who judge me so that I can say “yes” to the Holy Spirit moving in me.

    • Dorothy P. on March 3, 2016 at 11:50

      AMEN! I especially identify with the self-criticism and guilt that serve absolutely no purpose for myself or anyone else that I may be called to serve with the gifts (spiritual, intellectual, etc.) I have been given.

  17. Darla on March 3, 2016 at 10:49

    The words struck me , and I began to look at the many tasks I take on , the long hours I work and the lack of true Sabbath in my life. I must start listening to that voice inside me that often tells me to be still. I must say no to those things I do because I want to be seen as a team player. I keep telling myself If became more focused, I would be better , I could do more,but in reality I could do more if I took Sabbath,and a daily time of refreshing.

  18. Mryka on March 3, 2016 at 10:22

    I SO identify with almost all of these posts. I am incredibly susceptible to the demands to “if everybody said no who would do anything” and “if you won’t do it who will”. I am nearing retirement, and am bombarded with “don’t stop working, but don’t keep anybody out of a job” or “but of course you’ll come back and do the same things as always only as a volunteer”. I have been looking forward to having more time to devote to ministry, and find that as soon as I have any availability at all I am slotted into the stuff that I truly am not good at but could probably do with a huge investment of time and energy, which I don’t have.
    My spiritual director has said that I need to detach what I believe to be my calling from God at this stage of my life from what the “job descriptions” in the church are. I have been trying to do that, but find that like with any job doing what I am called to do is inextricably intertwined with stuff I am not called to do but nobody else seems to be either!

  19. Chanda on March 3, 2016 at 09:19

    This is one of the lessons I find it hardest to learn. I am a people pleaser and will deny myself things that are necessary. I must learn to say no to the demands of my time by things that may not be healthy for me.

  20. Paul on March 3, 2016 at 09:02

    I liked the comment of the person who said that if I say no, he or she won’t like me. I have learned that whenever I say no, I must come from a place of love and a tone of love; otherwise the other person will hear no as something to be taken personally, or as insult or some other negative interpretation. I pray for the wisdom to know when to say yes and when to say no.

  21. Bill Spies on March 3, 2016 at 07:54

    The need to balance life comes to mind for me. I do a lot of volunteering, at my church, in the community, in various veteran groups and so all this volunteering leads others to ask me to take on one more task. So to avoid draining me of all my hours in a day, I have to say No to people, but do it in a way the offers them the opportunity of doing volunteer work helping me and in turn once they help me I then will have time available to help them with their needs.

    I find it harder to say no to Family. There I can’t seem to say no and make it stick.

  22. Bettie on March 3, 2016 at 07:51

    That is a hard lesson to learn, if I ever did. I was always sure I could take on one more thing, then I would occasionally ‘meet myself coming back’. Now I see my daughters with the same problem. “No’ is the only possible answer to the many demands on wife, mother, employee, community female. But often doesn’t seem possible, so they/we squeeze in one more thing.
    Now, life circumstances have removed me from the need to say ‘no’ to outside requests, but have replaced it with the need to say ‘no’ to the many ways which I can find to fritter my time away when I could be doing something productive, enjoyable, or friendship-connecting.

  23. Neil Ellis Orts on March 3, 2016 at 07:40

    Just last night, I got an email from my rector asking me to serve on a sub-committee at church. I’ve slept on it and I still don’t know what I’m going to answer.

    I’m trying to think of a time I’ve regretted saying no to something. Nothing immediately comes to mind. I have a much longer list of things I’ve said yes to that I’ve almost immediately regretted.

    Br Luke and I share a problem, it appears. I always say I don’t have trouble sleeping, I have trouble going to bed. There’s always something more to do, to read, to explore online. I know how much better I feel when I get more sleep and as old as I am, I fight it like a two year old.

    I also say, everything costs. Every yes costs something and those yeses may make the cost well spent. Not always. I’m finding there are a number of things that I need to consider right this very moment of my life, things I thought I were important, that I’m realizing I need to let go, that I have to say no to.

    It’s all a jumble—and I don’t have enough sleep this morning to sort it! Still, the yeses and noes of our lives are what make up our lives. The older I get, I sometimes have to think about what sort of life I want for the rest of my life. On my death bed, will I have been glad to give up this? Will I have been glad to say yes to that? We can’t see the future, but thinking in those terms does, sometimes, help me clarify.

  24. alma on March 3, 2016 at 07:27

    Thank you brother. This is so timely. At this right moment I am struggling with what to say NO to so I can say YES to more quiet and restful time and to take care of my health: mind, body and soul. Many obligations which most are part of the work of the church is taking up much time and energy, simply “because the work is plenty and the workers are few”. Perhaps it is time to just prayerfully decide to downscale some of the priorities and say NO to certain demands. Lord hear my prayer.

  25. Bobbi on March 3, 2016 at 07:27

    My prayer is that I will say no when things squeeze into, and thus diminish, my prayer time. These can be requests from others, but also desires that feed my ego, but that aren’t God given or God sustaining.

  26. Betty Donahue on March 3, 2016 at 07:22

    I will say No to Kyle and Samantha. But I need to learn to do it in a way is not tinged with my personal feeling. I also need to learn to say No in a way that will not be an attempt to control Jack. I love Jack but need to say No say yes to what is important.

  27. Karen on March 3, 2016 at 06:47

    I’ve always thought that people liked me because I can do things to help them, as I am very handy. Therefore, I’ve hinged my self worth on doing for others. If I can do, they will like me; if I can not do, they won’t. I didn’t realized that this was how I though of myself until a couple of years ago. Once I realized that when I said I could not do something for lack of time, energy, or skill AND people still liked me, it was very freeing! I still help when and where I can, but I’m also a little bit more comfortable in saying no when I really need to.

    • Jane on March 5, 2016 at 11:43

      what a wonderful revelation – I will carry your thoughts with me – I’m inspired to try to turn more toward the things that feed me and less to the things I think I must do to be liked. Bless you!

  28. Jim V on March 3, 2016 at 06:29

    The first thing to say NO to are the things that are unholy time wasters in my life. Things that cause slough and lead me away from God.
    The other things are aspects of work that are panicked and will lead to nowhere.
    The others are committees or assignments that are not life giving to me.

  29. Mike on March 3, 2016 at 06:24

    I feel a pressure to do more for others but my declining energy levels and inclination towards quiet and contemplation lead to more often to quiet times of meditation. I need to learn better to accept my current reality and in saying no to the pull of being more active.

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