11 Reasons I Struggle to Say, “No”

Okay, this blog is a confession. I’m not good at saying, “no.” Consequently, I sometimes struggle with a heavily-booked calendar and an overwhelmed spirit. Most recently, I’ve been doing some self-analysis to see why I still struggle here after more than 35 years in ministry. 

  1. I love what I do.  When you love what you do, it’s easy to say, “yes” to any opportunities. You just don’t want to miss anything. 
  2. I’ve never asked anyone to teach me how to balance my life. I’m not blaming anyone here; in fact, I’m taking responsibility. I haven’t asked anyone to help me. 
  3. I don’t always listen to others.  I’d be lying if I said no one has ever challenged me to work on balance. Sometimes I’m just too busy to listen . . . .  
  4. I live with the urgency of the gospel. I really do think regularly about the reality of lostness, unreached people, and the coming of Christ. The older I get, the more I live with that urgency. 
  5. I like the accolades. Those words are painful to write, frankly. I do, though, enjoy when someone praises me for my work – so I sometimes work more than I must. 
  6. I don’t want to let anybody down. If someone I respect and love wants me to do something, I want to do it. Those same people would understand if I said, “I’m just too busy,” but I usually don’t give them that chance. 
  7. I don’t want to seem arrogant. I wrestle, for example, with not accepting invitations just because the crowds are likely to be smaller and the travel will be tougher. I’m always worried about making decisions that seem to be arrogant. 
  8. I don’t think enough about stewardship of my time and body. Financial stewardship is a big deal for me, but I don’t give enough consideration to other aspects of stewardship. 
  9. I am an idolater.   I know better than to live this way, but I live at times like I can accomplish everything. That’s idolatry. 
  10. I don’t seek enough input from others. That’s probably the case in general. When I make a decision by myself, I’ll likely spend too little time thinking about the decision. 
  11. I’m still growing. I’m 57, and I’ve been a Christian for almost 43 years – but I have a long way to go.  

I’m sure I’m not the only one with this issue. Readers, why do you struggle with saying “no”?  


  • David McBryar says:

    The main reason I have struggled to say ‘no’ in my ministry is the expectations set upon the pastor in the rural south in smaller size churches. The pastor is seen as the one that must do it all and attend every function. If the pastor does not live up to those expectations he is seen as not doing his job and not caring for his flock. We know we cannot do everything so if it is all possible to say ‘yes’ there is that obligation that lingers over your head.

  • Bill Pitcher says:

    I struggle with the thought that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done or, worse yet, that it won’t get done up to my the standards I would set. Yeah…that’s another case of idolatry.

  • John W. Carlton says:

    Reading through this list I find myself in so many of these reasons. Chuck, you and I are truly kindred spirits. It’s easier to say yes to a request than no and explain why you can’t do what has been asked of you. For instance, many times at funerals I have been asked to sing songs that I cannot sing because of the emotional impact on the family. #1 on that list is Precious Memories, The last time I sang it at a funeral, the outright weeping and sobbing was too much for me. I had planned to sing 2 verses, but concluded at the end of 1 verse and the chorus.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Hi, John. Here’s one place where we’re not alike: nobody would ever ask me to sing at a funeral! Thanks, friend.

  • Bill Mason says:

    I don’t say no because I’m a people pleaser. That’s another article. It has been hard to separate that from being a shepherd of the flock. But, I have learned in 35 years as a pastor to say no to the things I do not have the ability to do.

  • Alvin Reid says:

    This was my kryptonite for too long. I would add: I had never studied nor had mentors model sabbath. Ministry by volume, burn out vs rust out was all I knew. It. Was. Stupid. Almost killed me. Part of why Michelle and I moved to a 12 acre farm. Now when people say, “I know you are busy,” I reply, “I used to be busy, but now I’m just not always available.” Big difference. I still do a lot, but a lot less than the past, and I do less things better. And I’m a lottttt more content. The inability to say no is one of the biggest failures of older men Mentoring younger men, I think. Thanks for posting this.

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