Saying the Occasional “No” Without Guilt


Daylight dwindles into darkness, and Wildwood Acres settle for the night.  Birds hush in their hidden sanctuaries and the only sound is a lonely tree frog somewhere in the marsh. Before falling into stillness, the breeze opened up the clouds and left tomorrow’s promise in the sky.

This is usually my time to settle in for a couple hours of writing, but I’m weary… too weary to be creative. It’s not that I did a lot today. It’s more what I didn’t do that weighs on me. There is a troublesome website that needs significant upgrading, a garden that at the rate I’m progressing may take me all summer just to get un-winterized, writing projects that are lagging… and then this evening’s request for sandwiches or cookies to donate to an upcoming church ‘do’. Nothing outrageous.

Sometimes it’s the little things that overwhelm. The bendy ‘last straw’ that winds the mind into tangled chaos, and shuts down ambition.

Writers know all about the Inner Critic who tries to sabotage our best written efforts, but I’m convinced that his twin brother takes up residence somewhere in my calendar. A voice nags that I really ought to do this, I really should do that, I absolutely must, must, must perform to perfection. And if – heaven forbid – there’s a blank space in my daybook, I’m obliged to fill it with some worthy chore.

When I can’t convince myself to move into overdrive and push through the ‘To Do’ list, I’ve found it’s best to just stop. I give myself permission for an hour of daydreaming, or an entire do nothing, guilt free day. Guilt free is the Rx!

Last week on The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog Jeanette Levellie posted on the topic, “No is not a four letter word.” It reminded me of a day long ago when a concerned friend gave me a recording by David Viscott, MD, entitled, “Learning to Say No Without Feeling Guilty.” A couple years later its message was reinforced by another friend who pointed out that we are creations of God and as such ought to treat ourselves with care and respect.

With that thought in mind I’m closing the laptop and heading off to bed. The website will wait. The writing will, too. This creation of God needs sleep!

How do you handle a schedule or responsibilities that push you to the brink?


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

15 thoughts on “Saying the Occasional “No” Without Guilt

  1. The trick is to remember that we are not indispensable. I once worked for a many who said “Go ahead and pull your fist out of that bucket of water, and watch the hole it leaves.” If I dropped over dead today, someone would fill in and the job would get done. It isn’t all up to me.

    That makes saying “no” so much easier. You can, of course, soften it with, “I’m so sorry, my schedule just won’t permit it at this time.” Or words to that effect.

    Rest well, my friend.

  2. Hello! I can truly relate to this feeling of being up to the neck with things to do. But as Judith said, there is always someone else that can do what you don’t have time to. Then again, I can sometimes feel a gratifying responsability handed to me when someone asks me to do something. (Perhaps it might, at the time, be related to my new job) but I always think that you do what you can – and nothing more should be required…

    Whenever I look at my calendar and see all the things, and it is just -too much-, I try to reschudel things… and make sure to leave a day out for just pure living.

    Hope you have a good day, of not so much to do – or at least, not more than can be required. ^^,

  3. Did you write this for me? Ha ha!
    Wow, I’m so glad to learn I’m not the only one who beats myself up when my day-runner doesn’t “over-flow”.
    My hubby and some of my friends describe me as in “over-drive” most of the time.
    And like you, there comes a day when I just have to say no. And then I find myself making excuses to, mostly me, why I can’t continue.
    This is a great post—thanks for reminding me.
    Okay, now I’m getting back to work! 😀

  4. Same here!! Too much to do in one given day and even when the LORD stops you in your tracks[ IE. illness, pain , heart attack ,etc] I had one of those in 2001 with a heart attack at the age of 48 and I still went to the Er with the books, papers, and things I had to do. Do not do that and I finally learned to take some time for me to relax and enjoy the sounds, sights of the beautiful creation!! Sleep is so important!! I got a wonderful nap on Sunday after church and that is a great help for the new week!! Thanks for reminding us!!

    Sincerely, Carla

  5. Good for you, Carol. There is a time to take one’s foot off the gas pedal of life and relax. We are not made to pour ourselves out nonstop. We must have time to rest and refill our soul and spirit. When I feel exhausted and that inner woman begins to yap and crack her whip, I remind myself what it would be like to burn out. It makes those temporary down times look like the day savers they really are. Blessings to you as you stop to refuel…

  6. Sometimes we forget that we are just human beings and commit to more than we could do only to find ourselves exhausted. At times we need a break and give complete rest to our body and soul. Shanti… shanti…

  7. If I’m pushed to the brink then I really need to focus. Start with prayer, then try to tackle one thing at a time. The more I can clear my dashboard of things, then the path to the main job gets easier.

  8. I think we often feel that taking time for ourselves is selfish, that it should only come after we’ve done such-and-such. But caring for ourself, nurturing our body, mind, and spirit, is so important! If we fall apart, we’re not going to be good for much at all…. I think you’re right on about remembering we’re creations of God — bearing that in mind, the importance of caring for and respecting ourselves really stands out.

  9. Thanks for all the feedback. I appreciate hearing how each of you feels about this. Sometimes it’s not that my schedule is jammed full, so much as I’ve lost interest in a task that I’ve committed to do… something I maybe didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for in the first place, but agreed to do because I felt I should. Those are the kind of things God doesn’t let me weasel out of because I chose to take on the responsibility. But when I consult him before making my decisions, and listen for his guidance, I find there are tasks that I can and should say “no” to… things that others can do better than I, or that give others new opportunities for service. I just need to remember that!

  10. You mean after I cry because I’m so overwhelmed?

    Actually, I’ve learned to never say yes or no right away. I don’t let myself be pressured even by myself.

    Wait. I mean I TRY not to say yes or no right away, and I TRY not to let myself be pressured even by myself.

    And yes, that stealing opportunities from others–God taught me that one years ago.

    But still, my schedule is way more than I want it to be. Not much I can do about it right now, though, except not add to it. 🙂

    1. Schedules have a way of filling up when we’re not paying attention, especially for those who work day jobs or have young families to tend. The few other responsibilities don’t feel like much when we first agree to take them on, but added to everything else… well, I know how overwhelming it can suddenly seem.

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