When is it better to say no, than nothing at all?

The past several weeks have rocked not only our country, but so many places around the world.  We are reminded over and over of how violent people can be.  The shootings and killings are so very tragic, and yet maybe even more tragic are some of the responses that are plastered all over the news and internet.  Instead of honoring the victims, families, and all who are affected by these acts of violence, I have seen responses that dishonor and even trivialize what has happened.

I can’t help but think of the phrase that my Mom told me as a child, and I’m willing to bet you’ve heard it from your mom at some point, too.

If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

That’s good, solid advice (that I admit I have ignored far too many times in my own life).  If my words aren’t  intended to uplift and encourage, they don’t need to come out of my mouth.

Sometimes, though, it is actually better to say something than to say nothing at all.  I specifically want to talk about when it is better to say “no” than to say nothing.

I’m being influenced strongly by two different groups of people who seem to struggle with the idea of saying “no” instead of staying silent.  Those groups?

Women and volunteers.

As a woman, I often tie my self worth into how happy everyone else is.  If I can make other people happy, than I am a good person.  The idea that “if Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy” has put immeasurable pressure on women to act happy (not really be happy!).  After all, we don’t want to be held responsible for anyone else not being happy!  But that can be a whole different discussion for another time.

For so many reasons, women have come to believe that they shouldn’t say no to others.  This is especially true when it comes to giving time, energy and resources to help a friend, school, or church.

Volunteers can struggle with saying no, too.  Maybe it’s because they signed up to give of their time and talents.  But they often feel they don’t have the right to turn down a request to give more.  Maybe it’s because they feel volunteering offers some kind of penance in their lives, so they have to keep adding more and more to stay on the “good” side.

Regardless of why you struggle to say no, here are a few reasons it can be better to say no than to say nothing.

Saying nothing puts you or someone else at risk for harm.

Never hesitate to say no if someone can be hurt.  It doesn’t matter if that person is you or someone else – you are worth more than that.  Saying nothing can be dangerous.

Saying nothing compromises your values or the culture of your organization.

Sometimes you have to say no to protect your values, to keep from sacrificing your integrity.  And sometimes you have to say no to protect the integrity of your organization.

Saying nothing allows things to proceed in an unhealthy direction.

Saying no can stop a downward trend.  Instead of sitting idly on the sidelines, you may need to jump in with a no to keep your family, relationship, or organization from heading toward an unhealthy place.

Saying nothing robs someone else of an incredible opportunity.

If you say no, that may actually open up the opportunity for someone else to step in and experience something incredible.


What do you need to say no to in your life?


4 thoughts on “When is it better to say no, than nothing at all?”

  1. David Lewis says:

    I need to say “no” to good opportunities that don’t align with my goals.
    I need to say “no” to anything that would rob me of Sabbath rest.
    I need to say “no” to things that I’m really not competent to do, even when there seems to be no one else to do them.

  2. Lori Wildenberg says:

    HA! I think I say too much. I pray the Lord puts a guard over my mouth and to only speak when he moves me to. I guess whatever our natural bent is we should do the opposite and ask God when and if to speak.

    1. Good thoughts Lori!!

  3. Kelly Smith says:

    Excellent advice! Especially in these troubled times. Thanks for sharing!

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