A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Learning to Say No

Posted on: September 17, 2015

I don’t think my parents realized how much trouble people would have saying my name, Lise.

My name is pronounced Leeza but often mispronounced as Lise (the French name), Liza, Lisa, LisLiz, and even (by automated voice message systems) lies.

At school, my classmates would snicker when the teacher first took attendance and I had to correct his or her pronunciation of my first name. Even today, I have to say my name several times before people get it. Sometimes, despite my efforts, they still say it wrong and then introduce me to others that way, putting me in the awkward position of having to correct them.

When I was younger, I wished I had a name no one would struggle with; now, I realize it has forced me to speak up for myself—something many of us struggle with. We might be very comfortable advocating for those in need who may not have a strong voice in society, but when it comes to speaking up for ourselves, we develop a kind of laryngitis.

Because of the person doing the asking or the worthiness of the cause, we may find it hard to say no when we’re asked to take on tasks such as these:

  • collecting workplace donations for charity
  • organizing a bake sale, a yard sale or another fundraiser for our children’s school or one of their teams
  • serving in a parish ministry
  • planning a social event at work, at church, or for family or friends

But answering every call doesn’t make us a better Christian, or even a better person. What it makes us is stressed, tired, and drained. Instead of focussing our energy in a few places where we could be effective, we spread ourselves too thin. And what suffers? Time with our family, our health, and the tasks we’re already committed to.

Before we automatically say yes to another request, we need to consider whether saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. Whether our priorities are out of order. Whether God wants us to be spending our time and using our talents there or somewhere else—and whether he has someone else in mind for a particular job.

Flexing our “no muscle” takes practice, especially if people aren’t used to hearing anything but yes when they ask us to help. But we need to remember that we won’t have the energy to serve our family, our parish and our community if we take on too much and don’t build in time for rest. And we need to ask God to guide us when we’re considering major additions to our to-do list.

Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be

the fruits of my hours

and I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,

and dwell in his house for ever.

~ From “Psalm 23 For Busy People” by Toki Miyashina in Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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