I never like telling someone no.

I never like hearing no.

I don't like that I just picked out a "no" clip art for this blog post. It's feels so harsh to me. And I don't like to be harsh.

Because isn't it true?

Telling someone no brings on disappointment. It ruffles up community life. It creates disconnection. It's stop word after all. 

Hearing no messes with a sense of value. It can rob a person of their worthiness (if we let it). It usually feels like a door slam shut even if it's messenger approaches with respect and kindness. It's not a word radiating welcome. 

And we love connection and welcome. So there's no wonder we feel that no is such a bad word. Or is it?

Let's start with this: time and time again I've learn that "No" is one of the most spiritual words I can hear. No is one of the most spiritual words I can offer someone else.

Here are two gifts of hearing the word no and saying it to others.

  1. Rejection is part of the drill. None of us, regardless of how smart or kind or thoughtful we are can escape dead ends. We will need to tell people "no" in our life. People will need to tell us "no" too.
  2. "No's" teach. They redirect. They invite us to look deeper in our hearts and stories and intentions and help us walk on new paths-- to the place that the "yeses" live. We need "no" for direction. Thank God for "no!"

I was listening to a podcast recently by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert.

When asked the question about what she gave up to serve her creative process, she talked about the hardship of the word "no."

She bemoaned all the people who felt hurt by her "no's" and how it cost her friends, both personal and professional that she thought she'd have in her life forever. And visa versa.

Elizabeth reminded listeners that: "You have to sit with the discomfort that comes from the sacred no."

And here was the zinger question (paraphrasing here) she offered: what do you need to say no to so that you can fulfill why you are here on this planet?

This question is one that has stuck with me ever since I heard it.

Both to toughen me up when rejections come (believing that even the most devastating missed opportunities remind me that God is God and I am not) AND to have the courage to reject anything out of line with WHO I am made to be and HOW God wants me to use my time on earth.

There are a thousand amazing things to be and do, of course. Yet not all of these things were meant for me (or you either)!

So I'm wondering to WHO do YOU need to say "no" today? 

How do you need to lick your wounds and move on from a "no" that has long kept you paralyzed?

What do the "no's" in your life have to teach you?

Let's keep learning and listening together. And saying no. It's good soul work.

It's amazing to me the people I meet in my travels who all seem to complain about the same thing.

The obligations in their lives that totally bring them down.  

"Oh, we're going to see my uncle on Easter again this year. We always have such a miserable time but . . ."

"Oh, the moms at my kid's soccer practice drive me crazy and the coach is just so rude to my boy, but . . . "

"Oh, I signed up for another 3 year term on that community board that saps the time I'd rather spend with my friends, but . . ."

What is it with our love of self-abuse? And our inability to say no? And our falling prey to guilt trips?

I do it. You do it. We all do it.

We say yes to things that make other people happy though we growl later.

We over commit to projects because "nobody else did" and couldn't be farther away from our true interests.

We get caught in the vicious cycle of doing the same things year after year (forgetting why we started doing that thing in the first place!)

We let people and experiences make us miserable.

But there's an alternative, you know. I bet you've tried it before. And, I bet you loved yourself when you did. It's what I call moving toward love or in the words of one of my favorite Howard Thurman quotes-

howard-thurman-quote-resized

When we begin to let the priorities of our calendar reflect what we love and what makes us come alive, I believe our whole life begins to change.

Really.

Instead of filling our days with stuff that just checks stuff off the list or keeps the world spinning around (or so we think), we have the choice every day to move toward love-- doing what we enjoy the most and the people we enjoy the most doing it with!

Really.

46731-33684By this I don't mean we all go out and quit our day jobs tomorrow (the bills do have to be paid), but we begin by making small choices every week in the direction of what we love. Maybe for you it's a  . . .

Knowing that as we make these choices, we grow closer every day toward who we are and what our lives are most to be about.

For moving toward love IS whatever brings us both joy and deeper connection to ourselves and/ or others.

Anne Lamott says it best: "I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play."

It take courage of course to live like this-- to come alive.

NO can be an earth shattering word to people around us, especially as we begin to say potentially for the first time.

It's hard to tell our children no.

It's hard to tell our parents no.

It's hard to tell our best friends no.

But in the end, what's at stake is more than hurting someone's feelings. It's OUR LIFE.

It's our life that we will one day be accountable before our Maker. So why would you and I want to waste our precious days on relationships, on projects, or on experiences that make us feel less than? Or drained? Or discouraged? Really why?

So if you're needing someone to give you permission this week to say yes to something you LOVE and no to something you hate, let me be your pastor today.

Move toward love, my friends. Move.

It's a great spiritual path.