When Every Answer is ‘No’

I’m a social worker. Half of the kids I work with are 11 year old boys who struggle with anger outbursts due to the trauma, sickness, and emotional pain they’ve had to experience in their lives. I am the one who works with the family and providers to develop a “crisis plan” so everyone knows what to do to be safe and calm when a potential crisis comes up.

The one “trigger” on nearly every single little boy’s list is “being told ‘no’.”

I feel ya, kid.

Being Told ‘No’

Seriously, who doesn’t get triggered by being told no?

I felt like the last 2 years of my life were completely dominated by the word ‘no’. Life told us ‘no’ to the plans out of our control, then actual people told us ‘no’ to the plans that were in our control. On top of that, we were then told we had to say’ no’ to basically everything in life in order to prep for starting the church.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t disagree with all of it and have mostly trusted God’s plan in this process and I can look back and see how important this season of saying ‘no’ has been in large part. But at some point, don’t you have to start saying ‘yes’ again? You get stable, you get prepped, you get to a place that’s healthy and maintainable, then you can begin to live again. You can begin to take on small challenges, one at a time, that fulfill you and bring life to those around you. How is that a bad thing?

The Good and the Bad of Self-Deprivation

Sometimes ‘no’ is needed. But sometimes, you get to the end of your season of ‘no’. You’ve said ‘no’ and been told ‘no’ so long, that you’ve sufficiently cleaned out the muck and the apathy, reprioritized what’s important, and are legitimately a fresh slate. You’ve cleaned up so much from depriving yourself of the excess, that, if you go much longer, you might actually begin to empty yourself of the good.

IMG_0002You know, like when you’re so hungry, your stomach starts eating itself?

Ok, not really, but you get where I’m going with this. You can only eliminate things for so long before there’s nothing left to eliminate except what can fill you up in a good way.

We humans need to be fulfilled. We need to feel purpose. It’s how we’re created to operate. And when you’re privileged enough to not only know your calling and purpose, but also to know where the need is that meets the other side of your purpose, and that need is standing right in front of you, screaming at you every day to come help….

That’s when it’s hard to keep saying ‘no’.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

I originally wrote this draft over a year ago. I finished the post here with this line: “So when can I start saying ‘yes’ again?”

I’ve waited out my “Season of ‘No'” long enough to see the freedom to say ‘Yes!’ come back! It’s not the ‘yes’ we thought it’d be, but we’re more excited about it than we thought possible, anticipating the future with delight and levity, and feeling no regrets looking back on the past season.

So from someone who’s been in the season of ‘no’, I can say this with complete confidence:

  1. Saying ‘no’ is necessary and worth it.
  2. Saying ‘no’ often sucks bad.
  3. When you’ve completed your season of ‘no,’ you won’t regret it one bit.

Don’t throw away this time of freedom and intentionality! Steward it like a gift and it will blossom when the spring comes.

What season of life have you been in most recently? Is it frustrating or is it a season of gratitude for what you’ve come through?

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