Parachuting out of an airplane, rafting down class five rapids, taking four-year-old twins into Macy’s fine china department—scary stuff, huh? And yet many of us would rather jump out of a plane than say “no” to the multiple requests we get from others, including our children. How is it that “no” is all we could say when we were sassy three-year-old girls but then decades later, when we are grown up women, we struggle to say no? Are you brave enough to say “no” to your kids or to other people?

Perhaps your response is “But I can’t say no! I just can’t.” Yes, you can. I’ll prove it to you. Take a deep breath, look straight ahead, and speak the word “no.” See how easy that was? You can say no, so the more accurate statement is “I won’t say no.” We choose to either say yes or no to the requests people make. If you want to be brave enough to say no, first be brave enough to admit you do have a choice. You may not like the consequences of saying no, but you do have a choice to say yes or no. It’s cowardly to pretend otherwise.

Here’s a questionnaire to help you identify your reasons (okay, they are actually excuses) for not saying no.

Why Won’t You Say No?

Check if any of these are reasons you give for not saying no.

_____ People won’t like me if I say no.

_____ I don’t like making waves.

_____ Saying no could lead to major consequences, such as a rift in the relationship or getting fired.

_____ If I say no, I might change my mind later and wish I had said yes.

_____ People will be disappointed if I say no.

_____ I couldn’t come up with a really good, ironclad reason for saying no to the request.

_____ It seems easier in the moment to say yes.

_____ I don’t want to (or know how to) deal with people’s reactions if I say no.

_____ I don’t like conflict and avoid it.

_____ If I say no, they might not ask me again, and I might want to say yes in the future.

_____ I don’t like how I feel inside when I say no (nervous, guilty, etc.)

_____ People will get angry at me if I say no.

What emotion do all of these excuses have in common? You guessed it: Fear. And in particular, fear of other people’s reactions.

[verse reference=”Proverbs 29:25″]Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.[/verse]

If you are afraid of experiencing someone’s anger, disapproval, or rejection, then you are trapped. When we won’t say no because we are afraid of disappointing our kids or someone else, then our fear traps us into saying yes, when in our hearts, we mean no.

Jesus, recognizing how challenging saying ‘no’ can be, taught us in Matthew 5:37 to “simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” In other words, don’t say “yes” with your mouth when your heart is saying, “no, No, NO!”

The refusal to say no is the driving force behind most of our discontentment and frustration. When you won’t say no, you end up saying yes to things God never intended for your children, family, and life. Mommy burnout can be traced to a lack of Vitamin No and way too many fear-driven yeses.

Here are three tips for being brave enough to say no:

  1. Bravery is not acting without fear. Bravery is acting in the face of fear, doing the scary thing while you are still scared. So say no even while your heart is pounding and knees are shaking. Over time, you will grow more comfortable with using your no.
  2. It’s easier to say no when you are clear about when to say yes. Take time to clarify what you and God believe is truly important for you. For example, let’s say hosting parties brings you joy while balancing financial spreadsheets makes you miserable. It will be easier to say no to a pressured request to be PTO Treasurer if you are clear on who God made you to be and what He’s called you to do.
  3. Do a heart check when someone makes a request of you. If you can’t say ‘yes’ with your whole heart, then the answer is ‘no.’ If your heart feels evenly divided—like you want to say no but you also want to say yes—slow down. Don’t give an immediate answer but instead, bravely ask for more time to consider the request so you can make a wise decision.