the power of your “no”

“Chris, your problem was that you did too much and wouldn’t ask for help.”

These stinging, but very truthful words came from one of my volunteers at the church I used to work for as we discussed some ideas over the phone last week. While the words smarted a bit, they could not be more true.

Even though I intellectually understand the idea of delegation trying to keep some balance, these principles are rarely put into practice. Do you know why?

I am a pleaser.

And, if experience is any indicator, so are many of you who are reading this post.

The pleaser in me cringes at saying no. The pleaser in me wants to be liked and will compromise many things in order to, in short, please.

But the pleaser in me also gets me into binds. Especially in church work I found myself overwhelmed to the point of not doing my job effectively. I had a hard time trusting people to do jobs they were capable of doing, but in some way could make me look bad if they messed up. Or, I would overload myself by notsaying no in order to keep things even and peaceful.

In the last few years I have worked with an organization called The Mentoring Project. Their main purpose is to help organizations who have the desire to launch mentoring programs to do just that. They offer solid and extensive training pieces to organizations so their mentors will be ready to serve those needing mentoring.

On one of the training videos they had four pastors/community leaders speaking about their experiences mentoring at-risk children. One of the pastors said something profound that has stuck with me to this day. She simply stated:

“Sometimes my best gift to the one I am mentoring is my gift of ‘no’.”

You see, she had a mentee who had trouble with boundaries and wanted more and more of her time and attention. For the pastor on the video, she felt that instead of continuing to say “yes”, instead the better thing would be for her to say “no”.

Her main reason was to help her mentee to understand the power of boundaries and margin. In my new line of work, we call this idea modeling. In order words, I can never expect a child to listen to me if I am not modeling in some way the concept I am trying to get across.

So, if I am leading an anger management group it would be in my best interests to not get angry or frustrated by the students in the group. Or, if I am working with students in a group setting and they are misbehaving – my job is not to get them to like me by ignoring the behavior. My responsibility is to gently provide discipline so that the agreed upon rules (boundaries) stay honored.

And for the pleaser, this is so hard to do.

So, what about you? Do you struggle with boundaries? Do you find yourself saying “yes” too much? Today, maybe try saying “no”. And, I am not talking about responsibilities such as bills, family life, or homework. But maybe today is the day you can find the courage to create margin and say no.

Tell us your thoughts! How has saying “no” worked out for you in the past?

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