Why Do We Have Such a Hard Time Saying “No?”

I’ve had to say “no” to a lot of requests lately. That happens when I crawl into my book writing cave. (AKA me sitting on my bed with a gazillion pieces of paper, gum wrappers, my Bible, research stuff all around me, and a really messy ponytail/bun thing on the top of my head.)

I have a book deadline. Which means I have the need for 60,000 words. Words that need to come quickly and actually make sense.

I also have a family that still needs a wife and a mama.

Which leaves very little room for anything extra right now.

So, the word “no” and I have been getting more and more acquainted lately. And that’s a good thing. But I’m finding “no” and I have some dysfunctions we have had to work through.

And since maybe you do too, I thought I’d just open up a little discussion here so we can chat about it. After all, this is the theme of the book I’m writing and I honestly think you are wonderfully smart and I want to glean some of your wisdom. And possibly quote you in my book.

So, here is my addition to our chat: 6 reasons behind why we have such a hard time saying “no:”

We think saying no…

1. Is the same thing as being rude.

2. Will cause us to miss out on something we might regret later.

3. Isn’t the Christian thing to do.

4. Will produce negative lingering effects and awkwardness in this relationship.

5. Means we aren’t as capable or nice as the people who say yes.

6. Can’t ever be a positive thing.
In the process of decision making, there are so many lies we believe about what will happen if we say, "No!" www.lysaterkeurst.com

If even a few of these things bump into our decision making processes, it’s no wonder why we have a hard time saying “no.” But are they true? Hmmm….

Let’s talk about it. Share whatever comes to the top of your mind in the comments below. And if I use your comment, I’ll email you. Thanks!


  1. Kelsey says

    This is what I’ve learned over the years:
    -If I say yes to everything that I’m asked to do then all those things will get done halfheartedly and/or be sloppy.
    -If I say yes to a few things that I know I can do with excellence and no to the other things my work will be more enjoyable and rewarding.
    -If I say yes to a task that I really don’t want to do but I’m just doing it because I was asked I may be taking that opportunity away from someone else who would love to be doing and would be better at it than I am.

    Sometimes our “say yes” attitudes is just a form of pride. We want others to think that we have it all together, that we can handle everything that is thrown at us, and (for me, as a perfectionist) I can do it better than someone else. But God created us with unique talents and special gifts, instead of trying to do everything on your own invest into some young ladies and train them to carry some of those burdens. But understand they may do it differently from what you would do it but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.

    • Charlotte says

      Kelsy you are right. Reading your comment made me realize how crazy I have been. I often say yes to help someone I see is struggling because they are stressed or over worked. I also say yes because I will do it right but I never take the time to realize I am exhausted and spend most of my time praying to the Lord to help me make it through.

      • Larain says

        There is something very familiar about this “can’t say no” response . Perhaps it is the fact that I too use to spend most of my time praying to God to help me get it all done.” But lately I have become very clear on one thing: that my love for God and for others, while dependent on my actions toward others, can never truly be measured by what I do or how much I do. Rather, it is determined by the lead of The Holy Spirit, my helper, my teacher and my comforter. I find that the more I trust and yield to His perfect will and voice, my saying “yes” or “no” to any given request always brings peace to me and to others. So, I am left most often feeling absence of guilt and even better with the assurance that all is well with the person who needs that thing handled. It helps to ask the Holy Spirit to help me to appropriately communicate with all concerned.

  2. Katie Mulder says

    Saying “no” to me feels like I am rejecting the person asking me the question. I also don’t get asked things very often so I feel like I have to say yes because I don’t know when I will be asked again. On the other hand, I feel like I have to say no when people offer me food because I am overweight (and losing weight) because people will see me as a “take all the food” cow. I say yes because I want to be liked, put myself second, feel as if I can’t say no (negative ramifications at work), and then I am stressed out and tired and of no good use to God, myself or those around me. I also like to be chosen by friends and say yes for that reason. When I ask people for help or to be included in my life, they usually say no because I want them to choose what they really want to do and that is to not be with me.

  3. Mary says

    You hit the nail on the head 6 times. All those reasons are true! I have a terrible time saying no. Praying first before I say yes or nois helping. It’s a work in progress though. But as a wise woman once said imperfect progress …. I look forward to your book!

  4. says

    I often tell the people in my ministry “no is an answer too”. But after reading this I find that’s advice that I have trouble with …saying NO to myself.

  5. Edie Kile says

    I always feel like I am letting someone down when I say no. I think I should be available to everyone and meet whatever need they have.

  6. Brenda S. Brown says

    I work with several lower income parents. I do daycare for the state, I am ask quite often to loan money in which I rarely see repayment. I feel if I say no that I am not being Impathetic to thier needs. I guess I get put on a guilt trip you could say. I need help with this problem. Thank you.

    • Kacy says

      I’m like you. I feel guilty when I have to say no. Somebody gets rejected or becomes second priority. I don’t mind when I’ve been told no. I would rather the other person do what they want to do. I had a long term relationship with a woman who has four kids. We got engaged but not married. Not bc of me. It was unstable before but after that it just couldn’t go forward. She still wants to work things out but I can’t trust this situation anymore. I feel guilt everyday bc I choose to do anything with anybody and could be with her and her kids. I think they use that, or at least she does, against me to make me feel guilty. Which I already do. That’s a problem. I’ve also met other women who are interested in dating me. In the days of texting, etc there is a way to communicate with potential girlfriends without ever seeing them. Have to say no at some point to one of them at least if they stay interested. I obviously may have other, bigger problems, but saying no is definitely one of them

  7. sallie says

    Saying “no” to something is really saying “yes” to something else. When we say “no” it opens opportunities for other things that may be of greater value to our lives or the lives of others. When asked will you… I prayerfully consider how God wants me to answer. I can say “no” more easily if that is the way He is leading me.

    • Kacy says

      So if I need to make a decision, I guess whether it’s yes or no, after praying about what the decision is, you feel like whatever you’ve decided is God leading you there? I’m not arguing about this, I’m curious. Usually the one your’e worried about is saying “no”, right? So if I pray about it and say “no”, I can feel confident that it’s the right choice? I guess it’s hard to know where your opinions are getting in. I’m very interested in this discussion. I do go to church and believe in God. I’m a Christian. This topic is a tough one for me though.

  8. carol says

    I have always had trouble saying no. But as an imperfect work in progress I know where my limits are and the older I get I hit those limits more often. So when I know I have done all I physically and mentally can without an attitude I very gently say no. It is a matter of pride I agree with that one. Well pride comes before a fall. It is in my nature to do all I can do so when I say no there is a disappointment there. But when I have an attitude it is time to back off and let God help me sort out why I have one. Otherwise I come across ugly and that is not “a Godly thing”. I also have trouble with being “unglued” which is why when I met you Lysa in Las Vegas I could only cry and not say much cause I totally understand where you were. Thanks for being brave enough to write it all down for “all ” to see.

  9. Ella says

    I love to help. I also have a misguided sense of how much I can handle – “It’s just … (one more tiny thing, surely I can add that to my plate)” Individually, each task or need that is added really isn’t that big of a deal. I am very capable – but in the moment can’t see how adding this one more thing is going to cause the whole plate to topple. I recently said “no” to a very good thing – helping an old friend help a friend in need – but I did refer her to someone she could pay to help her – and it worked beautifully. The need was met, and my plate didn’t topple over. One small step toward learning the art of saying “no” – or for me saying “maybe so and so can help instead.”

  10. says

    I learned at a young age to say “No” when I need to. My family moved and I changed to a new school going into the 4th grade. At first, I was a “Yes” girl; I suppose it was to make friends. I got taken advantage of quite a bit, paying for lunches, buying snacks after school, etc. Something inside of me got fed up and I decided that I didn’t need to say “yes” all the time. So I started saying “No.” Did I lose a few friends? Maybe. Do I say “no” all the time? No.

    Now that I am older, I wonder where in the world did I get that idea that I could say “no” sometimes but I am glad that I did because it has helped me enjoy the relationships I have with people and it’s comforting to know that I don’t have to carry loads alone; if I say “no,” maybe I can suggest someone who might be able to say “yes” that time, and I can pick up a request next time.

  11. Betsy Derr says

    I am pretty good at saying no. I learned a long time ago that I cannot be out 6 nights a week! I allowed my kids to go to Awana and one other thing.
    These days when I’m asked to help with this or that ministry at church, I pray about it, consult with my husband, and decide if it is a good fit for me and my family.
    I have trouble saying no when I think everyone is saying no and something just won’t get done, but even then I figure, if God wants it done, it will get done, with or without me. I also have a hard time saying no when I think there aren’t enough people helping out and they really “need” me. I don’t want my friends stretched too thin, either. But I won’t allow guilty feelings make me do something that just isn’t right for me at the time.
    I have several ministries that I’m regularly involved in and many that I pitch in to help with temporarily, as time and money allows.
    So long as I’m serving the Lord, I don’t have to say yes to everything.

  12. Annika says

    I’m a full time college student, as well as working part time hours to do a full time job at my church. There are two major things I have learned about saying “NO” in my short time on this earth:
    1. When I say “NO” to something I don’t think I should be doing, it means that someone else now has the opportunity to do it better than I could have in the first place. I’ve come to realize that although I may be innovative in ways, there is someone out there who can do some of the things I’m doing better and they just need an opportunity. They need someone to believe in them just like someone believed in me.
    2. By saying “NO” to something I am able to put my best into what I have already committed myself to. A recent example of this was this passed semester when I decided that I would not be able to help with a program that has been available to our youth for 10 years. I was already committed to my job, school, and developing a new student discipleship program that I knew something would suffer in a big way if I took another thing on. Although the program has a special place in my heart, I knew that I had to say no if I wanted to succeed with what I had already committed myself to.

  13. Jillian Wolf says

    I was reading and thinking and something suddenly hit me quick, Maybe ask God in prayer to to protect you from those that he may not want us to help maybe? I struggle with constant can you do this can you do that to the point I have noo energy and I feel misused but I am not sure so I just say yes most of the time and feel discouraged when I say no

  14. Leslie says

    “Saying a big enough yes to what is right, good, and true is the best way to say no to what is wrong, bad, and false.” I have no idea where this quote came from but I have always liked it especially when I was a teenager.

  15. C A Elliott says

    Saying “no” feels like failure to me. It is admitting that “I cannot do it all”. Somehow,the message of my parents that “You can do anything you want” became “You should do everything you’re asked”. It gets further complicated when I figure that if I am presented with this opportunity, then it must be something God wants me to do…I am slowly learning discernment…but that’s not easy after years of “Super Woman” practice .

  16. Beth says

    Often I have a problem saying no, because I think that if I don’t do something, no one will do it. But I’ve come to realize that if no one wants to run the pancake breakfast, then maybe we don’t really need a pancake breakfast after all! Sometimes change means letting traditions go. And when we do that, we free ourselves for the new things that God brings our way. If we are all bogged down doing the same old things, even though we didn’t really want to, we have no space left in our schedules and lives for new, exciting ideas.

  17. Michelle says

    One more reason why we don’t like saying no is because of the desire we fight against to be a people pleaser…

  18. Karen says

    My problem is with my daughter. What am I teaching her, if I don’t show her that NO is an option sometimes. If she isn’t behaving correctly and I still say yes to all her requests, what is that saying? It isn’t easy, but I think it is necessary to show her that bad behavior isn’t rewarded. I guess this could be used with other people too, maybe.

  19. Nanette says

    I just want to help…I would like to do all I can to help. I have found though that when I help where I’m not supposed to be, I am robbing from where I truly AM supposed to be. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re not helping, but that you’ve chosen to help where you have truly been called by God to really help!

  20. Rene Vasser says

    Saying no is very difficult to me. I always think of the verse do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I love to help others that is our purpose to serve others and love others as Jesus does.

  21. Joanne says

    What is my motivation for saying “no” or “yes”? What is my goal in the long run? Where is my balance? What are my priorities? Will this yes/no answer take away from or fulfill my goal and/or my priorities? What is the Lord’s answer to this request? Will this yes or no answer benefit the other person, or will this answer enable bad behavior or inhibit both of our growth? Am I trying to rescue the other person or help the other person? Is the pool of available people adequate for the job or will this project stay short staffed?

    I had to learn this the hard way. I, for years said yes to everything and did not know my priorities, my goals, my motivation, enabled bad behavior, allowed other people to inadequately plan, was afraid of rejection and people pleased and thought I was pleasing God. I was stressed, resentful, overly responsible, fearful, unbalanced and burned out. I, through tragedy and a lot of hard work found out the real heart of God, started to heal, and started to really know Him. I found out I didn’t have to say yes to everything, and could answer yes or no based on listening to the Lord and not my own misinterpretation of what is right for the situation. I still make mistakes and will still learn more, but I am grateful for the tragedy for the turn around.

    Blessings Lisa, and your book will be a useful tool to many people. You have a knack and a gift for speaking the message in a no nonsense, transparent, loving way that people are able to receive and put to use.


  22. Stephanie says

    I have trouble saying no. I grew up in the church and was always taught that others are to come first. I feel that by saying no, I feel like I am being selfish. The older I get, I realize I can’t do it all and that I am miserable trying to do it all. I really need help in this area of my life!

  23. angela heikkinen says

    I’m a ‘super server’ at Lifechurch.tv fw- a term I use which means serving in more than one area of the church. When I first started attending I was so excited about the movement that I wanted to help everywhere! After hearing several messages from Craig and from God about over serving and stealing blessings from others that would be serving if I wasn’t, I realized that its not God’s intention for us to be super servers! He wants us to be a part of the church and serve but not take over every spot available. We are part of the body, not the whole body. I used to think if I was asked to do something it was because God needed me in that role. But then I realized they asked me because I always said yes 🙂 now, I pray before I say yes, and make sure that I really have a passion for it, because if I don’t, there’s someone else that’s more capable to fill that role

  24. Kelly McClure says

    The art of saying no! I like to refer to it as an art because I believe it is a truely esthetic and desirable ability to have. I think we have all been conditioned in some sense to view the word, “no”, as a negative word. Although, I have experienced the exact opposite. When I am able to bring myself to say no to situations that may take me away from the main focus of my life or the main focus of a season of life, I reap great benefit! Some of these situations may otherwise be wonderful things, or they may be things that are outside the boundaries God has designed for my life and will never be beneficial to me. Either way, determining when to say no is needed!

    These words from Proverbs help me to determine when to say yes and when to say no:

    Proverbs 4:25-27
    25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
    26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
    27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

    Keep your eyes fixed straight ahead on Jesus and what he as called you to. If something does not fit inside the guidelines in his word, your calling, your calendar, or the general 16 hours of time you are awake in a day the answer is no! God give us grace to do this!

  25. Amy Tapp says

    When I say ‘no’, many times it leaves me feeling and thinking about how I’m letting myself down and others down. You see, I’ve got expectations for myself and then I have “perceived” expectations from ‘others’. The ‘others’ can be family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. Getting to the point of saying ‘no’ to commitments, etc., can be a pride thing. If I perceive that others want me to not say no, then the temptation is to do exactly as the ‘others’ want and let ‘them’ have their way. Frustration sets in and that “negative inside chatter” begins when I am not sitting still before the Lord in order to hear His voice as to what direction I need to take. “There is a time for everything under heaven”

  26. Vikki de Los santos says

    Sometimes No is hard to say because I like to do so many things that each one sounds great; what I would like to do. But is it what God wants me to do? Each time I do say yes I know I will have to say no to at least two other things that just maybe are what God has planned for me.

  27. Sherrie says

    I have a hard time saying no when i want to hang with the person or people that are asking me to do something. I want the friendship and the time together then end up stressed because i have to much to do.

  28. Kathy says

    I say no when I need to. Recently a friend wanted to spent some time with me at my house after she got off work after 3:00PM. I was very tired that week and told her so. A couple weeks later, I realized I had not gotten back to her, the reason being it was too late in the day and the 3-5 time frame didn’t work for me. In essence by not responding I had said no. Today I saw her at our Bible study picnic. She was pleasant, and later I spoke to someone about getting together, she over heard and said I have given up trying to get together with you. She left and did not turn to listen to what I had to say. I will call her and explain that the timeframe was all wrong but now since I know she has the summer off, it will be easier to schedule some time with her. But the bottom line is I failed her by giving her a non answer. And I feel badly that I have hurt my friend.

  29. Chelsea says

    I’ve been learning about this lately, too. If I really expect to be able to the “good works” God has for me to do (& do them well), then I’ve got to seek Him before making the commitments. Because God always knows best, no matter how rude or awkward I might feel for having to say no to some great opportunities. I’ve also learned that He is in control, and (shock!) I am not responsible for doing everything that needs to be done! God has entrusted me with certain responsibilities, and He very well might change them as He pleases, but He can and is raising up others who seek Him to do things that I cannot. That’s what the Body is for; no one part shoulders all the burden, but we all in obedience to God share the responsibilities, each tackling the specific tasks that the Father has equipped them for and called them to. We don’t have to feel guilty for saying no to some things!

  30. La Shaine Reynolds says

    I’ve always had a hard time saying “No”. I don’t want to disappoint anyone and I want to be the kind of friend or family member that everyone can can’t on. But by doing this I’m putting myself to the side and my relationship with God. Because if I’m doing everything for everyone else then I have no me or God’s time. My yes’s far outweigh my no’s. So I’m learning to say no to other’s and saying yes to God.

  31. Donna Miller says

    It is important to address this issue of not being able to say no. All of the reasons given are on target! I think an additional reason may be the fear of someone else being able to replace us (and do a great job) if we are not engaged in the activity, and perhaps we will not be asked again. In other words, fear of rejection. It is vital to realize we have only one body and cannot be everywhere and do everything, and that it is OK. Our contentment must come from doing the will of the Father.

  32. April Boudreaux says

    I have trouble saying no to a few people in my world! It’s ironic that I have a standard rule with myself. I never want anyone to feel obligated to me when I ask them for something (ie. to attend a family function, bible study etc.). I always allow myself to feel obligated when asked to do things. I abhor these feelings to the point of resentment. I need to practice saying no but bottom line… I hate disappointing people. I am a person who tries to take the path of least resistance. This is one day going to come back and bite me in the rear! Lord give me strength to just say no!