Just Say No

It’s a simple word. But oh how hard to say! Leaders want to help people. We acquire a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing others grow, heal and prosper. Hence, it’s really hard to say no when the need is real and the help is available.

After 22 years in ministry I have noticed some patterns in myself and others. What I share today is the product of personal observation and experience. While it may not be the same for everyone, it is common enough to warrant a blog. Here are three things to consider:

1.     Margin-less leadership produces heart shrinkage. Leadership has no finish line and if you are not careful and build intentional buffers in your calendar you will start resenting the same people you are supposed to be helping.

This is what I have learned to do:

  • I schedule times for relaxation, reflection and family. An empty calendar is an invitation for someone else to fill it. It’s easier to say no when you know why.
  • I remind myself that true friends are able to respect my no’s.
  • I specifically schedule downtimes right after major events. Muscles need recovery time after strenuous exercise, as do your emotional muscles.

2.      Ask yourself why. Always check your motivation. Feeling needed is sometimes more about ego food than it is about helping people. You should say no if you sense these elements as primary motivation:

·      Pressure – It’s hard to say no to people who won’t take no for an answer, but the more you do it the better at it you become.

·      Guilt – If you do it because you feel guilty, you will experience “heart shrinkage”. Not all guilt is from God.

·      Convenience – Especially say a big NO if it sacrifices one of the big three – Family, faith, fitness) but will help you politically or strategically.

·      Avoidance – by saying no you will have criticism and confrontation, so you say yes to avoid that. Bad idea.

3.     Say no to things others can do. The temptation of a leader is to take over and do what must be done because it’s easier, faster and it gets done right the first time. Don’t fall into that trap. Followers will allow you to do what you chose to do. The words “Here, let me do that for you” are seldom spoken. You will have at least a 5 to 1 ratio of people giving you ideas vs helping you with tasks. The older you get, the more you should be doing what you are really good at and less of what others are good at.

Hopefully you will learn as I did, that NO is not a bad word. It can actually be freeing. Just say no.


Roger Hernandez is ministerial director for the Southern Union Conference