Oct 12, 2019 filed under Courage.

Saying no

We’re told to say “yes” like Mary, aren’t we? True, but sometimes saying “yes” to God means saying “no” to people’s requests. In The Book of No, authors Susan Newman and Cristina Schreil help clarify when “yes” is not necessarily the right answer to “Can you….?”

It’s usually not a sin to pause before answering a request. In fact, pausing or delaying our response until the next day is our chance to check in with God to see what He wants. Ask that the request be emailed, to be sure you understand what’s involved. Newman and Schreil suggest this list of questions to ask before jumping to “yes:”

Do I have the time?

What will I have to give up to do this?

Will I feel pressured to get it done?

Will I be upset with myself after saying yes?

Will I resent the person asking?

Will I feel duped, had, or coerced?

What am I agreeing to? What’s the gain?

Checking in with God
If you have a decent prayer life, you likely have a good idea what God is asking of you. It’s worth taking the time to consider whether a request fits in with your “core mission.” For example, if your mission is motherhood, you’ll consider first what your children need from you. Or if your mission is writing, you may think twice about heading up a fundraising gala that would take you away from your desk for a year.

Graceful No’s
Charles Stone, a pastor (charlesstone.com), shares ways to gracefully say “no.” Here are two:

  1. Say “no” without using the word “no.”

To soften your response, use phrases like, “I’m sorry, but that won’t work for me right now,” or “My schedule won’t permit it now. But thanks for thinking of me.”

That last one, “My schedule won’t permit it,” requires some ground work on our part. I learned from Michael Hyatt (michaelhyatt.com) and David Allen (see Getting Things Done below) that if I put soul-food (prayer, exercise, reading) on my calendar first, it won’t get clogged by other demands. I’m learning slowly to “schedule what’s important first,” and let everything else fill in around the important stuff. We can’t help anyone if we are spiritually weak: prayer, exercise, and reading are “must-have’s” if we want to serve God well.

  1. Simply and kindly say “no,” and if possible explain why.

I’m not sure I agree with explaining, because some requestors will just argue (remember the Garden of Eden?) Stone adds that “no may feel awkward, but that uncomfortable emotion will quickly pass. However, if you say yes when you should have said no, the feelings of regret last much longer and take a much greater toll.”

Courageous “no”
In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown ties a thoughtful no to the virtue of courage. Courage is doing something scary because it’s the right thing to do. And saying no can be scary! Thinking of no as a display of courage can help us turn down offers if, after checking in with God, we know it’s not for us.

After all, Mary’s life was not all yes – she had to say no to the devil, and to anything that would lead her, out of fear or weakness, away from what God wants. To put it another way, if we put our effort into to saying yes to God, the no’s will fall away of their own weight.

Scroll down and share a time when you had the courage to say no to a good thing because you believed that was the right thing to do. And if you need a little help saying no, pick up one of the books below!

Love always,

If you click and purchase, Virtue Connection may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say it and Mean it


Getting Things Done by David Allen
We can’t say “no” until we’re clear what God’s asking us to say “yes” to. Getting Things Done isn’t a religious book, but I’ve found it extremely valuable for getting my prayer life on track by putting on my calendar first what’s most important.


Talk about clarity! The author of Essentialism makes prioritizing (and letting the rest go) breathtakingly simple. I’m about to dive into it for the second time.

8 Responses to “When and How to Say “No.””

  1. Margaret

    Dear Rose,
    The little creature that came up first looked like she had come straight from a beauty parlour. What an amazing, wonder- filled picture.

    Having to say no is very understandable. Secretaries are sometimes needed that we may be more effectual and not lose our wits.

    Blessings on you dear Rose, and your mission.
    from Margaret

  2. Donna

    Happy Son-Day Rose!
    Thank you for all you do. Your Virtue Connection ALWAYS seems to come at just the right time.
    May God bless you,

  3. Tom Roberts

    A qualified yes or a no with an explanation; I have spoken both and heard both. So I approached Norbert Haas (Coach Norb) with some trepidation to ask him to be my RCIA sponsor in 1999. He replied “Sure! When do you want to start?”

  4. Leo Alcantara

    Hello Rose,

    The topic is fascinating and very appropriate for the social interactions that we have in our everyday lives. People sometimes do ask us to do things, attend events, and meet for socializing that may certainly take our energies away from priority obligations.

    I can think of my current apostolate in young adult ministry. Core members (of which I am one) sometimes ask me to attend certain events that conflict with priority obligations. These obligations can include time with loved ones, work or religious duties. In these cases, “No” is the right answer. Of course, saying “No” in a respectful way is important. I have found that saying it calmly and with a smile helps. Explaining that you have event or engagement that cannot be missed is also helpful so that people do not feel you are saying no because of them.

    Checking in with God, as you write, is key. Having time with God in the morning, receiving the Eucharist (for those who are Catholic), and waiting for His inspirations have helped me to remain grounded in His peace.

    Thanks for the topic!


    • Rose Folsom

      Thanks, Leo, for sharing what helps keep you grounded in peace to help discern when “no” is the best answer.