How to Say “No” Without Shame, Regret, or Guilt

by Crystal McDowell · Print Print · Email Email

Is it bad to say “no” to legitimate requests? Are Christians always to agree to put themselves in bad situations so that we appear as giving, loving, or patient? What if someone asks us to do something but we don’t really feel right about it?

I believe that many times we find ourselves wanting to help other people to our detriment—if we don’t seek out God’s wisdom. As a result, we may say “yes” to requests that we should turn down. Our quandry is that we desire to be Christ-like and not turn away a request that the Lord may want us to fulfill. There is a way to say “no” without the burden of shame, regret, or guilt. Jesus commanded us to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” in Matthew 10:16, how can we have this balance?

We say “no” prayerfully

“Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong” (2 Corinthians 13:7).

Seeking God’s wisdom is critical to knowing what to do with requests. The Lord knows the thoughts and intents of those who make requests of us. There are times we will sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting of “no” and we must in faith follow it until He shows us a different way. Praying before a quick yes or no will save us the drama of having to pull back on our word.

We say “no” lovingly

“Instead, speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:32).

People aren’t always offended because we say no, but they are almost always offended if we don’t address them in love. Love provides the grace to let someone down easy. Sometimes the greatest test of love is tough and it may mean for us to respond in the negative. The truth can hurt, but love will allow the door to remain open for dialogue and relationship building.

We must be firm and follow through with our words.

We must be firm and follow through with our words.

We say “no” gently

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Harshness comes from our carnal nature which is prone to selfishness and irritation. Gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit and is available to every believer. Even if we feel frustrated, we know that God isn’t agitated and He is aware of our situation. The Lord may allow this request as an exercise of giving a gentle “no” answer.

We say “no” respectfully

“Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17).

In many cultures respect is given along the lines of class and socioeconomic status. However it shouldn’t reflect this manner in the body of Christ. Christians should give respect to everyone the Lord leads in their path. Respectfully declining a request gives honor to the one asking and solidifies our influence in their lives. It’s much easier to accept a negative answer given with dignity and respect.

We say “no” firmly

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

Some of us waver in our yes or no responses with promises that it may change. We must be firm and follow through with our words. The integrity of our Christian faith relies upon this—however, we balance it by staying open to the Lord. It could very well be a “no” answer for a season and then change to a “yes” later. What matters is that we remain solidly on God’s word and the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than on our feelings which may fluctuate time and again.

Just say no…

God told Adam and Eve ‘no’ to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16). The Lord refused to let Moses enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10). In spite of prayer and fasting, the Lord still took David’s son (2 Samuel 12:16). When Paul, Timothy, and Silas attempted to travel to Bithynia, they were prohibited from the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7).

In each case, God had a greater plan that included a “no” to those He loved. The greatest act of love was demonstrated when Jesus asked that the cup of suffering be passed from Him. The Father didn’t take it away from Jesus and allowed His crucifixion in order that the whole world could find salvation through the cross. A ‘no’ isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it’s necessary for spiritual growth on both sides. Take courage and follow the leading of God in responding in the right way.

Take a look at some other articles for Christian advice and tips: Advice & Tips for the Christian

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits July 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Good counsel Crystal,

It is indeed hard to say no, especially to fellow Christians seeking your time and/or finances. How long do you continue giving? 70 times 7?..;-)

Asking the H.S. For guidance is important, but many emotions enter in when folks keep asking for your help. Balancing the continuing drain of financial support against the expectation of the individual seeking self sufficiency is often very difficult.

Eventually “no” often must be said. Do you ever ponder why the church at Jerusalem became so poor that Paul had to finance them through outside donations? Here was where the church was born. They had all things in common and yet they literally went broke.

Did the commune concept become a disincentive to work? Did those working to support those who weren’t (just living off of the producers) become a sign to the workers that they were being taken advantage of, so they quit the church? Thereby leaving the church to fast and pray yet not work, as if manna would fall from heaven for their benefit?

I often use this first attempt by the church to live in a socialistic manner as an example of the first big experimental disaster in their spiritual journey. Do you wonder why the H.S. didn’t clue them in to this error in direction. Or was it a test of their obedience to “work” and give which was the failure?

Surely the H.S. Knew that answer. Yet another example of how God gives us free will to fall into holes of our own making. What does the predestination crowd have to say to this?

Thank you for making us think. It is truly becoming a lost art…



Aubrey August 23, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Thank you for the wonderful message. Praise God!


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