Saying “No”

Posted on: September 06, 2016 Written by
Saying “No”
Photography by: champja from iStock          

Get up earlier. Read your Bible longer. Journal—better yet, do an art journal and use highlighters with different colors for different grammatical structures. Have a retreat; make sure to date your husband. Listen to sermons while doing dishes.

These are just a few of the things I have been told to do in order to fill my cup. As I try to do all and be all, I find myself actually saying prayers asking God for a bout of sickness just so I could stay in bed and have an excuse for getting absolutely nothing done in a day.

As an overseas mother of five, adding to my to-do list is simultaneously overwhelming and exhilarating. Overwhelming because my list is already more than I can accomplish with the remnant of brain cells with which I am starting my day. Exhilarating because nothing feels better than to tick off tasks as I run myself through my day. As I do more, I am filling myself with the air of being needed, valued, and capable. This form of validation is addicting. So I say “yes” to more. Besides, where would my family and community be without my assistance?

About three years ago, I decided to stop saying “yes.” When you are a wife overseas, the pressure of “yes” is hidden under the veil of hospitality, having open arms, and allowing our homes to be a refuge. These are godly desires that will be touted as a woman’s calling in most women’s Bible studies and in talks given.

But so is saying “no.”

I remember lying in bed and telling my husband, “I feel like I am losing more sleep over other people’s life issues than they are!” I am a fixer. I love to lead the charge in providing food for a sick mom or inviting the singles over for dinner. If there is a need, I want to be there to fill it. This had become my thing. My self-worth had been blanketed with helping others and people-pleasing, and it was suffocating. I was exhausted and had very little to offer my own family.

For me, self-care is about saying “no” and realizing that within my “no” is the reality of allowing somebody else to say “yes.” Sometimes that will mean that others will struggle and suffer because I am not there to meet and tidy the situation. I am learning that is okay. Ultimately for me, I realized that my over-serving was a result of not fully believing that God is going to come through. I would SAY that I trusted the Lord, but I KNEW that I had a plan in my back pocket—just in case.

By being everything for everyone all the time, I was leaving little margin for God to be God for others. In the lack of things or solutions, others will lean into the Lord for provision and understanding. In the messiness of parenting, a mom will learn patience and perseverance instead of relief and comfort from my rescuing her. I am relieved from my guilt by remembering that Jesus passed by scores of people and did not offer them healing. Jesus removed Himself from the masses to get away and pray. Jesus surrounded Himself by twelve, which by default said “no” to thousands.

Jesus set boundaries.

The primary way I have succeeded at saying “no” more often is by giving a delayed response. Now, when someone asks for something from me, my response is, “I need to go and ask my husband first.” This gives me the mental pause to sort out whether or not I should say “yes.” It also allows me respond with a text or email if it is difficult for me to say “no” to that particular person.

There is a lot more to unpack in learning to say “no.” There are books, sermons, and plans, but none of these will be effective if we do not first understand that saying “no” is essential not only to the care of self, but also for the care of others. Setting boundaries is a statement that we know God will come through, even if we do not.


Question to consider: How have you seen the following statement in your life: “Setting boundaries is a statement that we know God will come through, even if we do not.”?


©2016 Thrive.

About the author

Her almost 9 years in Asia have given her a unique perspective on life as a foreigner, marriage, raising kids overseas, and finding her place in the world. She has had to figure out what her faith looks like practically when taken out of her contented suburban upbringing near Houston, Texas. When she's not tripping through the Chinese language, she homeschools her children, advocates for adoption (she has one daughter from Ethiopia) and puts vinegar on anything resembling food. Because she often feels like a spoon at a table of chopsticks, she constantly has to redefine normal for herself and her family. She is the author of the book"Redefining Home: Squatty Potties, Split Pants, and Other Things that Divide my World." She blogs at You can find her on Facebook at Carrie Anne Hudson.

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  • Hadassah Doss

    Thank you! This is a lesson I am still learning. What a great way to think about saying no…giving God His right of way! I’ll be imagining that a lot as I pause the next time I’m asked to do something.

  • Meredith DeVoe

    For years, my husband said Yes to everything, leaving me little room (or energy) for choice. God eventually revealed to him that his frantic pace was a poor substitute for what he really needed– grace. Thankfully, the Lord has released him from the need to be irreplaceable. This has freed me up to be able to say Yes authentically. Praise God that He is after our heart, not our busyness!

    • Carrie Anne Hudson

      So good: “God is after our heart, not our busyness!”

  • Barbara Bartz

    Thanks for this good reminder. I moved to Indonesia about a year ago. So many new people to meet at our place of ministry, our church and the BSF women’s class I attend. I know God has called me to be involved in mentoring younger women. But there are so many new relationships and I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out who I should be investing my time with. After reading this I took a step back and 2 young single church women immediately came to mind. God opened up opportunities this week for me to meet with them for lunch/coffee and God confirmed I need to invest my time in this way. Next week BSF starts and I am facilitating a discussion group, so have committed to shepherding the women in my group for the next 9 months. So my boundaries are clearly set today, and I can start focusing my time and energy on these things without feeling guilty I am neglecting other things. It’s always the challenge of the best vs the good.

    • Carrie Anne Hudson

      Barbara- I totally agree. In our line of work, saying ‘no’ to something means not doing something really worthwhile (typically). It takes much wisdom and maturity to step back and not feel like we have to have our hands in every aspect of ministry. I’ve also found that at times, I was enabling others to not say yes to something because I was already doing that thing! I wasn’t allowing others to be empowered. I still have a long way to go in giving up control 🙂

  • Hope Owsley

    Wonderful post!