The Grace of No: Chapter 7 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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“It may appear a contradiction to have a chapter by this title in a book all about saying yes to God’s will in our lives,” Lisa Hendey says a page into “The Grace of No,” but “the more I live in a yes mindset, the more I realize the mandatory presence of a few, well-timed no responses along the way.”

I’m a “yes” kind of girl.  I get excited about ideas and love to see them to completion.  But the past year has been a year of no for me.

Not going to lie—it’s uncharted territory for me, this saying no business.

Like Lisa, I have had to learn how to safeguard the people and projects to which I’ve said yes by setting limits for myself.  The problem is, people-pleasing is one of my dominant faults, and, when asked a favor, I do everything I can to avoid having to answer no.

(“We’re looking for someone to donate their pancreas for the church auction!”  Well, if it’s for Jesus…)

When I read “The Grace of No,” I knew Lisa was speaking to me.  I was facing yet another round of hard decisions, trying to discern what to cut in order to take care of family concerns (my son was diagnosed with autism in May) as well as some health concerns of my own.  I had already quit school and turned down a number of interesting projects in the previous six months.  The fat, I thought, had already been trimmed.

Then, surprise!  Another baby on the way.  When your time is spent bowed before the porcelain throne, how quickly yes becomes no!

The nos I’ve already spoken have safeguarded my family because my family needs me the most, and the nos I have yet to say will further protect my obligation to them. As Lisa points out toward the end of the chapter, quoting her friend, it’s no good to be “so heavenly minded that [we’re] no earthly good.”

“So does this mean that I stop giving of myself to worthy causes and needs beyond my family or loved ones?” Lisa asks. “Absolutely not.  It simply means that I must exercise some discipline and discernment before I jump into things.

As the Queen of Impulsive Decisions, I usually do my discernment after I’ve already said yes to a hundred things and am drowning in an ocean of responsibility—hence, learning to say no.  But, as Lisa says, I also don’t want to stop giving of myself, absolutely. To that end, I’ve learned another new word:

Maybe.

Maybe is the word of discernment.  It’s what we say when we’re neither ready to say yes or no.  Maybe leaves doors open while we go seek the Lord’s will and others’ guidance.

After maybe has to come yes or no.  Alluding to Our Lord’s words in her prayer at the end of the chapter, Lisa reminds us that our yes should be yes; our no, no.  One mark of human maturity and consideration for others is the strength to speak the truth—the truth of our frailty, our limitations, and our decisions—with love.  We owe it to God, others, and also ourselves.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. In what situations do I find myself struggling to say no?  What is it about those situations that triggers my insecurity, my lack of follow through, or my impulsivity?
  2. Other than your spouse, do you have a trusted person to whom you can go for advice when you’re in discernment?  What qualities do you most appreciate about that person?  What are the most helpful suggestions you’ve received from them?
  3. Have you ever said no and regretted it?  Why?
  4. Do you tend to say no or yes first?  Why?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 8: The Grace of Rebirth. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Rhonda Ortiz

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14 Comments

  1. i think this was my favorite chapter! I have the same problem with saying yes before I truly discern if I ought to be taking on another project. I’m coming up on the difficult time of handing back some things and saying, “Sorry, but it’s a no now.” It’s hard not to feel guilty about it, but I have to strike a balance!

    • Oh, I know, I knoooooooow what you mean, Christine. I’m still having to step back from things in order to make space for other priorities. It’s so hard! I totally get it.

      Sometimes I get into the rut of thinking that saying “no” is selfish of me. Sometimes it definitely *feels* selfish, even if I know intellectually that, no, I’m being prudent. Learning to distinguish between prudence and selfishness is something I’m still working on.

  2. Christine, not gonna lie, I snort laughed on that Pancreas line!!!

    I love your thoughts on the grace of “maybe”… Also, to your question number two, I have coffee with a good friend most Thursday mornings after going to early Mass together. It’s become one of my most important discernment opportunities each week, as she truly helps me to see the bigger picture. Also, I’ll say that for two long I neglected really letting Greg play a major role in my discernment of “nos”. He is always so supportive that I discounted his ability to help me sort through decisions… but I’ve learned (after oh so many years) to go first to God in prayer, and second to my very wise spouse. #slowlearner

    Thank you for sharing your heart on this chapter. These weekly conversations have been such a true blessing for me!!

    • Wish I could take credit for the pancreas line!

      I know Nathan really helps me when I’m stressed from too much to do. When I finally quit working – before our debt was paid off – it was because I was in tears over the stress of my responsibilities. Nathan said, “So quit. If it’s too much, quit.” I protested that I had promised to work until our debt was paid off, and he said, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown. This isn’t worth it. Quit.” I put my notice in later that week.

      • Hey, I like the name Christine! It’s my sister’s name, and we look alike, so… 😉

        I’m also learning to ask my husband for his opinion before I make big decisions. With two kids and one on the way, I’ve had to adjust to increased family demands—I just don’t have the same amount of free time (and energy. Can we talk about energy?) for committing to too much. My husband sees things I do not!

  3. The pancreas line WAS priceless!

    I find it hardest to say “no” when I am worried about what someone will think of me if I refuse. Queen of Insecurity here. I always feel like I have to come up with an excuse, too, and worry that the excuse won’t be good enough.

    I too need to involve my husband more in decision-making. It’s no good to fly solo on a lot of things.

  4. There needs to be a “like” button on each of your comments. Or maybe an “agree” button. I am getting almost too good at saying NO. After over volunteering during an already busy life I seem to be taking a break during my early 50s. However I’m now in a position to say no but recommend someone else and encourage them to use their gifts. Once I realized I don’t have to do everything I began to encourage others. It’s actually been fun watching others feel needed and valued.

  5. I am in the boat with Sandi. I remember when I had trouble saying no. It got easier because I learned to be honest in what I wanted to do or not do. If I give my yes, I want my heart to be in that yes. Recently I was asked to paint a school mural.I have painted huge murals over my years of teaching and am aware of how this changes the atmosphere of a building. But I didn’t say yes. I qualified my response. I said I would mentor a team of students to do the work. I set honest healthy boundaries around my yes that I hope will open up growth opportunities for others.

    • Celeste, this example is exactly what I was trying to aim for in writing this chapter. Not that we don’t give our “Yes”, but that we do so after prayerful consideration… it seems to me that your decision also places great value on generativity!

  6. Two thoughts came to my mind.

    A friend once advised me, “Remember that ‘No.’ is a complete sentence.” Often when I do say no, I follow it with reasons and rationalizations. Then before I know it, it seems I’ve circled my way into actually saying yes. If only I would have kept my mouth shut …

    The other thought: I completed the Called & Gifted charisms workshop with Sherry Weddell several years ago, and something she said has stuck with me like glue. “Discerning your charisms helps you say no with conviction and yes with enthusiasm.” That advice has turned out to be rather profound for me.

  7. Rhonda, this is the funniest article I’ve read in a long time! And where you’re coming from is one of the best examples to illustrate the “no” point. I, too, have a difficult time saying no. But…
    don’t you ladies think there are times when God is asking us to say “yes” for no other reason than to bless others? When it will not be easy for us, not necessarily benefit us (other than teaching us to give of ourselves)?
    I’m asking this as a mom who does not have small children at home anymore, which I think makes a big difference. When my kids were small I definitely focused almost entirely on them and, looking back now, it was the right thing to do.

    • Elyse, I definitely see your point! Yes for the sake of blessing others? Totally agree. I think the larger point of Lisa’s book is that these kind of yeses are the heart-stretching work of the Holy Spirit, and the more we’re open to this, the more the Holy Spirit can pour his supernatural charity into our lives and the lives of others. I suppose the “no” chapter, then, is about the practice of prudence. I’d say it’s directed at those of us too used to saying “yes” without discernment.

      I was thinking about this yesterday at Christmas Mass, when my mind turned toward the necessity of serving the poor. I was lamenting the fact that I don’t do much in this regard, and then my imagination went off in a thousand directions, none of it practical. 🙂

      But then I remembered that the online magazine I started, Real Housekeeping, serves the poor—we pledge 50% of revenue to charities helping the hungry and homeless (not to toot my own horn, all Holy Spirit). So the answer was to keep working at the thing I’ve already started and that already works with my family life.

      One of the strangest contradictions of saying yes without prudence is that it can make our yes a compromised yes—in short, there’s a certain lack of freedom that almost nullifies any virtue we might have in saying yes. Being someone who people-pleases, I can definitely affirm this for myself. It’s *more* selfish of me to say yes just because I want to avoid the icky feelings *I* feel when I have to tell someone no. In a case like this, my yes isn’t a *real* yes—as far as I can judge.

      My two cents. 🙂

  8. I will have to keep this book in mind for my local women’s book study this summer. it sounds excellent. I just went through a year and a half of ‘no’ because of a surprise addition to the family. Now that she is 9 months, I am ready to work on saying ‘yes’ more!

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