How to Say “No”: Celebrate Your Limitations

Look at your life. Are you trying to do it all? Do you find yourself taking on too many projects, too many tasks, trying to get too much done in too little time? Well, you’re probably struggling to say “no” to new responsibilities, and that struggle may be rooted in pride.

Although we’d never say it out loud, sometimes we act as if we are God. I realized this a few weeks ago when I crawled across the finish line of an exhaustingly busy week. I wrote about that experience and how I learned that the first step to saying “no” is to say “yes” to your priorities. You can read about it here.

Putting Yourself in God’s Place

But there’s another aspect to saying “no”. If you want to get better at saying “no” to new responsibilities you have to celebrate your limitations.

I realized that a big part of me doing too much in my life came from a subconscious belief that I could do it all. Beyond this, I thought that I had to do it all. I thought that the fate of the world depended on my ability to execute whatever items made it on my “To Do” list. What is this thinking but pride?

Recognizing You Have Limits

Who is the only One who can do it all? Who is the only One on whom the entire world depends? God. So every time I work as if life as we know it will cease to exist, I am taking on the role of God. I am putting myself in His place and accepting a job that only He can do.

Maybe you’re in a similar position. Maybe you want to slow down in life, but you think that your world will crumble around you. I have good, if humbling, news. You’re not that important. You’re not that capable. Life will continue if you do less.

One key to saying “no” is recognizing you have limitations and that’s okay. In fact, you were created with limits. You are finite. You have domains of possibility and impossibility. You can’t do it all and that’s on purpose. Your limitations are designed to lead you to the Lord.

Celebrating the All-Sufficiency of God

When we as over-scheduled, over-extended, over-committed individuals learn that our busyness is a byproduct of our pride we can finally start to rest in God. We can look to Him as the Sustainer of all life. We can return to our original design. Despite all our strivings to the contrary, we were fashioned to be dependent and interdependent. Only God can do it all, and our limitations are meant to lead us to that conclusion.

Realize that saying “no” to commitments and responsibilities shouldn’t make you feel guilty. Instead of a begrudging confession of your own finitude, saying “no” should be a celebration of the all sufficiency of God. Remember the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul in 2 Corinthians.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.–2 Cor. 12:9

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