Discernment: or sometimes it is ok to say “No”

Last week I was asked to do something — it gave me pause. That request is still sitting out there, and it is for something good. To say “Yes” would mean doing something good. But, it is also a bit terrifying to me. And so, I asked for a week to pray about it.

Thoughts came and went. Prayer came and went. First reaction was “I can’t do this.” Next reaction: Maybe I can, but I’m not sure I want to. Third reaction: Let’s pretend I say “Yes” and see how it sits.

It sat. It sat and sat and sat. It sat in my lap and smiled up at me and said “See – you can do this! You can live up to the expectations of others. You can do it now and get it over with and feel so good that you did it.” I think it might have purred a little while it sat there and tried to seduce me. But, still, there was a nagging sense that I wasn’t looking closely enough. Maybe I should inspect those neatly gloved claws.

This morning I awoke with a very strong sense of what I needed to do to help decide how to proceed. I needed to ask someone specific for help, were I to say “Yes.” And so I decided to call her and ask. And see what her answer told me. But, it was too early (I might wake her up) and she might be out of town (did it matter that then I would just get the answering machine?). I fidgeted. I stalled. I realized that a very big part of me was afraid she would say “Sure! I can do that!” and then I would indeed have to say “Yes” myself.

Finally, I called her number. Answering machine. But, I left a message and sure enough she called back about an hour later. Much to my surprise, she said that she really couldn’t do what I was asking. She gave solid reasons. The most telling was “It’s just where I am right now. And I’m not backing down.” Whoa! I wasn’t trying to make her back down. We talked. Her answer was “No.” I felt all of the tension leave my body. I understood. It wasn’t that she said “No.” It was the reasoning and the way she said it. It was hearing someone stand their ground and say “This is not for me do to at this time.”

My answer will be very much the same. I feel sorrow that I can’t say “Yes.” But, after I made my decision, and stood up for it with someone who really wants me to do it, I also got an email with a quote from St. Vincent de Paul: (I’ve substituted Those for the name of a particular group that was being addressed):

[Those] who carry out their ministries in the way mentioned, but without the right intention, aren’t pleasing to God, who asks first for the heart and, after than, for the work.

I have a friend who resigned from heading up a ministry because she came to the conclusion that she was there for all the wrong reasons. That upset some folks. But, I’ve seen her continue in ministry in other ways. She knew what she saw in the mirror. She came to my mind frequently as I wrestled with the decision.

And so — at least for now, I rest easy with “No.”

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2 Responses to Discernment: or sometimes it is ok to say “No”

  1. Susan June 22, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Rest easy.
    I just had a conversation on this point with Elena last night, who was feeling pressured to do something. I shared with her something it took me a long time to learn: the fact that you can do something…even if you are the best person to do it…is not alone reason to do it.

  2. Liz June 22, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Thanks for the affirmation… When Woody called to find my answer, I found myself saying – “I am unable to say ‘Yes’ –” and he took that with grace. I think this may be mine to do, just not mine to do right now.

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