Say No, So You Can Say Yes

Ever looked at your calendar in order to schedule something special with someone you love, only to fall back in your chair in frustration realizing there’s no margin? The pace you thought you could handle is handling you. The people who are most important to you are milling around in the background of your life, and “other” people and activities are consuming your time.

I’ve been there.

For busy people who have lots of interests, friends, and activities, this scenario can sneak right up on us, and catch us completely off-guard. So, what is one to do?

Say NO, so you can say YES.

That’s right. The key to being able to say yes to the spontaneous things with our most-cherished friends and family members is to say no to some entire categories of offers. Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating whether to add something to the calendar:

  1. Will a yes to this require a no to something or someone more important to me? This is a big deal. What are the top priority relationships and activities in your life? How does a yes to this opportunity or invitation affect them? Even if you can make it work, does it crowd out the important margin that needs to be in place for emergencies and spontaneity?
  2. Is this the season to say yes? It might be that you’re in a season, based on the ages of your kids, professional obligations, emotional capacity, etc., when you need to say no, but later, in another season, it could be an easy yes. As a pastor’s wife, I’m invited to do some really cool stuff. In the season from which I’m now emerging, with heavy-duty parenting required, even those great opportunities were usually easy nos. It’s much easier to say no to something if I know it’s not necessarily a forever no.
  3. Do I have the emotional and physical margin to say yes? Even if the invitation or opportunity only affects you, and the calendar isn’t screaming for relief, is this the time to say yes? Based on your emotional load and your physical needs, are you able to take on another obligation?

Trust me, the people in your life are worth the temporary sacrifice. Your mental clarity and emotional health are worth a few not right nows. Err on the side of a calendar that’s even a bit too light, than one that has you and those you love feeling frustrated or abandoned. The next time someone you cherish makes an offer you can’t refuse, you won’t have to!



  1. says

    yes! i am actually in the process of this right now. i realized over the holiday break that my kids and marriage had taken a back burner to most of the rest of my life. so i resigned from my job and decided to focus on my family! it feels amazing to be able to only say yes when its to something that is healthy and beneficial!

    heres a blog post about the beginning of my new journey 🙂

  2. Tifani Thompson says

    Your words always LIFT ME UP and always encourage our family! We continue to apply all your wisdom of having ‘breathing room’ ‘guardrails’ ‘margin’ in our lives. Life is so much better!,,,and so much less complicating and so much more meaningful!!!:) It’s a wonderful thing! The trends of our culture is a non-stop battle:(:( You always speak the awesome truth to how God designed us to live. THANK YOU!

    That is a beautiful picture of you and Pastor Andy.


    Excellent and a great reminder for all of us “YES” people. Saying no is often a difficult, but needed expression of following His purpose in our lives. REMEMBERING…”Be careful what attracts you, as it just might distract you from what is truly important!”

  4. Paige says

    Perfect timing! I really struggled with saying no to children’s choir at church but we needed some time at home just my 4. Last night a friend called needing someone to take her kids while she took her husband to ER for severe migraine. So thankful we could hang out with them and help. I can’t imagine having no family in town. We wouldn’t have been home if we had continued choir. I felt Gods confirmation. He knows!

  5. Jon Scaman says

    Totally relate. I remember reading Take it to the Limit and realizing my life is like TV programing. If I wish to ad a new sitcom I have to take one out. There are only so many hours in the day. Some for sleep (never enough) Some for prayer. Small group. Gym. Family. Work.

    God first, family second, everything else third. Working on this right now. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…….and I’m feelin’ good!

  6. Jenn Cofer says

    A friend of mine shared a random post… which happened to be this blog post.
    I have a 5 yr old and an 8 yr old—– AND I have thrown all of my very important activities into a giant, gold mining pan… and have been shaking, shaking, shaking— to separate the gravel and the fool’s gold from the true gold! Your post has accelerated the process. There are plenty of “good” activities that have luster and sparkle. Thanks for the gentle reminder that “all that glitters is not gold”! I spent the day with my 5 yr. old daughter as she ditched her training wheels and rode around a half mile loop… about 20 times!
    We can now all ride our bikes… and will enjoy riding our bikes to church— once Gwinnett Church opens, one mile from our home!
    Thanks for your excellent thoughts!

  7. Christy Massey says

    I still have the sticker that was given out the day you & Andy spoke together during the Guardrails series that says “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” Nehemiah 6:3 It’s on my computer since that’s where I feel like I spend the most of my time at work. What a great reminder to stay focused on what’s important for THIS SEASON of my life.

  8. Miranda says

    Thank you. There are 2 not-right-nows that I’ll be delivering, having let this marinate for a couple of days. Nothing huge or dramatic, thankfully, but I think these little recalculations add up.

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