rituals: saying no (suzanne burden).

Well friends, welcome back! I do hope you enjoyed last week’s #rituals FLASHMOB, and if you haven’t already checked it out, head back to read the words of Addie, Aleah, Kari and Jen. For now, we’re back as regularly scheduled, and this week I’ve got the lovely Suzanne Burden here with us. Suzanne is another friend of mine from the Redbud Writers Guild, and her words ring so, so true for me. Even if it’s hard, there is so much power in saying “no.” Enjoy her ritual.

Flickr Creative Commons: Walt Stoneburner
Flickr Creative Commons: Walt Stoneburner

“Moving on from ___________” read the subject line in my email.

You can do this, I assure myself.

Historically, I don’t like to quit things.

I am an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality scale—and let me tell you, we can get things done. Consider it a function of our sheer stick-to-itiveness when we feel passionate about something.

(Read: we can’t always let opportunities, things, jobs, or people go when the timing is right.)

(And also: it could be that rituals just might help us say no more effectively.)

So I sent the email. After several years, a recent statement on the organization’s values and beliefs helped me to realize our philosophies were no longer the same. I had become “not the best fit,” and I needed to move on. I mentioned how thankful I was for the opportunity.

Coincidentally, this morning a coauthor and I dropped—as in, ceased—a publishing project I’ve been working on for a year and a half. We ourselves received a lot of “nos” and then a “we’d like to change it to this” that just didn’t work. I cannot even count the hours and emotion that went into what appears to be a failure, but at the moment, is a clear redirection. It may resurrect itself in a different season, but for now, I am being called to put the lid on all that effort. I do so with a mixture of relief, sadness and anticipation.

Dr. Henry Cloud calls them “necessary endings” in his book of the same title:

“Although we need [necessary endings] for good results to happen in life and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them.” (p. 9)

I am tired of being afraid of confrontation, of fearing that a new opportunity will not come along, of dreading saying something wrong so that I never say anything at all.

Without “nos” I cannot truly say “yes” to this one wild and precious life of which the poet Mary Oliver writes.

And so I am saying “no” a lot these days. I am praying, not lengthy prayers, but Lord, help me do the next right thing. To say yes to the good, and a firm, even glad “no” to the not-best.

In the process, I am learning that healthy people in our lives are often so grateful when we say no with intention and grace. They are often relieved. You see, our nos redirect them, too, and hopefully into a better scenario, a better relationship, a better fit.

I have realized that my ritual involves prayer, discussion with a close friend or mentor and checking myself physically for whether a situation inspires passion, anxiety or passivity in me. I am listening to my body’s response. I invite God to speak to me and I listen to the emotions called forth through my unique personality, gifts and experiences.

Why do I feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach or tension in my shoulders? Will this contribute to my wholeness and flourishing and that of others? Does it align with who I am, not what will please someone else?

When the no feels right, sometimes the words are simple and don’t require too much thought, and I try to offer them in the moment without regret: no, but thank you for asking. Other times, an explanation is needed, and then the next phase of the ritual kicks in.

Check in with the other party. Confirm my thought and prayer process in this decision. Kindly and firmly offer my no. Wish the person the very best in their endeavor and their mission and wellbeing in life.

If it is a significant “no,” like the one I experienced today, I will soothe myself with a bit of chocolate or a walk. I will journal. I will pray a prayer of release, my hands turned upward. I let the “no” flutter past without fanfare, catching the breeze and blowing away, that I might be fully present for the next “yes.”

Saying no is one of the most important rituals I can practice if I am to start again with joy: a moving on, an open door, a new chapter. My mind clears, empty of the weight of less-than-best commitments, and I wonder, like a small child peeking around the corner, “What’s next?”

My eyes peeled, my heart opening, I am nearly ready for the “yes.”

suzanneburdenSuzanne Burden lives in the Indiana heartland, where she enjoys her husband’s mad cooking skills and the benefits of living in a city where she knows her neighbors and can always find a parking space. She agrees wholly with CS Lewis when he writes: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Suzanne is the coauthor of Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and can be found at her blog or on twitterIt’s Cara again – so, here’s a question for you: how today do you need to let your yes be yes and your no be no? Even more, how did Suzanne’s words inspire you to say no? Leave her some love!

17 thoughts on “rituals: saying no (suzanne burden).

  1. I love the part about listening to our bodies, passions and emotions. I think God gave these things to us for a reason, and uses them to direct us. By ignoring them and discrediting them saying, “my emotions are not valid,” we probably end up doing many things that aren’t our best. Thank you Suzanne (and Cara) for this encouragement!

    1. Yes, this listening to my body to help me discern what is happening is different. I don’t always do so; sometimes we need to do things afraid as well or to do things that we know clearly need to be done. But I’m asking God to help me to discern when my emotions are a signal, and to be thankful we receive direction in this way as well as other ways.

  2. Suzanne, I’ve gotten quite practiced at saying “No”, but it’s not without effort over the years. What comes easy now was not so easy at all back in the early days. A friend of ours helped me see it clearly when she was talking about dealing with multiple requests to take on projects at church. She’d say “If you need an answer now, the answer is no. If you’d like me to think and pray about it, I can get back to you on whether it might be a yes.”

    1. Hi Tim: Thanks for commenting! Yes, the above conclusions only took 42 years to come. I appreciate so much the “If you need an answer now, the answer is no.” When we commit hastily, we often due so out of fear that a right opportunity won’t come or out of pressure. I am grateful that we can discover more and more as the years go by how to negotiate the nos and embrace the yeses.

  3. A redirection requires surrender–surrendering the thing I thought was soooo right. This term “redirection” helps me better understand what my year–my year of letting go–may be preparing me for.

    1. Surrender—the thing Jesus is always calling us to that we so often resist. I’m glad to hear of your redirection and that grace somehow arrives in the letting go. Thankful for you and your journey and encouragement!

  4. An important thing to learn! I often want to say no but then have trouble discerning if the timing is right – if I am just tired or if there are signs a door is closing. As an ENFP, I often have the opposite of Suzanne’s problem – it’s all too easy to abandon projects midstream. So I find myself praying for perseverance, the ability to say “no”, and the wisdom to know when to employ each!

    1. (Not that I’m REALLY replying to this, since it’s Suzanne’s guest post, but Jamie, I too am an ENFP and you nailed it on the problem of “no” for us!)

      1. Jamie and Cara: Same personality type, both writers, both have two sons, and they might even be the EXACT same ages. I’m not kidding. Good reminder that maybe sometimes we need to keep saying “yes” to things, which means saying no to new things for awhile. I think both of you should write a post on that! 🙂

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