Sunday, May 19, 2013


"When you say 'no' to something, you are actually saying 'yes' to something else at the same time." 

I stared at the front of our conference room blinking dumbly. Our head of staff raised his eyebrows and nodded at our disbelief. What the heck was the talking about?
This is me in Chile

I don't know if I was raised this way or if this is just the penetrating culture of the southern gentlewoman but in my experience, saying "no" to someone was usually wrong, rude or selfish, unless you were being manipulated or attacked physically. Over the years, I have been caught saying "yes" way too much. Perhaps I just really like to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes my way and I have told myself I feel alive when I do that. Maybe, I just don't like to disappoint anyone and I still believe I am responsible for people's feelings. Either way, more times than I can count, I have said "yes" a little too much.  After this staff meeting, it took me a while and a lot of practice to fully embrace this truth, but once I did, what a difference it made! 

Anytime you are given the opportunity to say "no" to something, you are ultimately saying "yes" to something else. This works in reverse too. 

When I said "no" to a night out with my friends, I was saying "yes" to an evening with Joel. I was saying "yes" to my friends having an opportunity to hang out with someone new. I was saying "yes" to giving myself a chance to catch up on rest. When I said "no" to driving to work, I said "yes" to unexpected encounters with people would have not otherwise known. I said "yes" to 30 minutes of alone time. I said "yes" to admiring beauty and embracing nature. I said "yes" to exercise and taking care of my body. I said "yes" to one less car on the road which benefits the environment. 

Me wandering in Canyonlands
A lot of "yes" answers are really good. I still believe that most of the time saying "yes" is a life-giving idea. The "yes" moments I am calling into question are the ones that take our free time, down time, family time, rest time,dinner time, prayer time, worship time,exercise time and even some of our resources. Those are "yes" moments that were hopefully fun but in the end, you know you compromised something. 

I think this whole idea is directly correlated with the issue I've brought up about Self Love. Most of the people I come in contact with say "yes" to everyone but themselves. Serving, loving, sharing, giving, being with people are all things that I say "yes" to and I believe you should too. However, I also believe you should say "no" to them from time to time as well. 

When you say "no" to something and you feel that guilt starting to bubble up, think about what you have said "yes" to in that same moment. Remember that you are worthy of saying "yes" to yourself. How many times have you reminded a friend who gives and gives that he/she just has to say "no" sometimes? We don't wish that life of drain on our friends or family. We are worthy of not wishing that on ourselves either. This is a part of Self Love. When you can say "yes" to others as much as you say "yes" to yourself then you will know the balance and fullness of peace.

Me street-dancing in Berlin with a religious group
Another way that I discern my daily moments of "yes" and "no" is by choosing to always say "no" to guilt. I refuse to do anything motivated by guilt. Guilt is a force that manipulates and destroys love, all love. A good action motivated by guilt is not authentic and I don't believe true love can pour out of those kinds of encounters. I want to be a person who is genuine. When I serve others, I want to do it because I am called to serve not because I feel guilty if I don't. When I spend time with friends, I want to do it because I love spending time with them not because I feel guilty if I don't. 

When I say "yes" I am saying it out of the fullness of love and I am ready right then to participate in the moment. When I say "no" it is because I trust there are "yes" moments that will generate love in a way my saying "yes" could not.

The balance is clearly the key and the answers are yours to choose.