Knowing When to Say No

It has been a very busy week. Sunday I led a session of Bible Prayer/Study before the 11:00 Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, and after the 11:00 taught an RCIA class. Monday evening I gave a talk at the third session of the monthly program Christine Luna Munger and I are doing at St. Kate’s designed to help people deepen their experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Yesterday morning I offered a development morning for spiritual directors at Sacred Ground on Learning from Ignatius. Today I will give a talk at Weekly Manna at the law school, after which I will introduce my friend Rabbi Norman Cohen, who will be the speaker at one of our Mid-Day Reflections. Then tomorrow morning I will facilitate a Spiritual Listening Group and I haven’t yet looked at the Friday schedule. (And that is in addition to seeing a number of directees and working on several other projects, etc.)

I love what I do. I am enormously grateful that I am given the opportunity to minister in places like UST Law School, St. Kate’s and Our Lady of Lourdes.

The fact that I love what I do, however, makes it so very easy to do more than is healthy. It is so tempting to want to say yes to every ministry opportunity that arises. Combine my love for what I do with the tremendous need in the world and “no” does not fall easily from the lips.

But I have learned that I do need to set some boundaries. I have come increasingly to recognize that that no is not a bad word. I still don’t say it all that frequently, but the word comes out in situations it would not have done so several years ago. Part of it is the recognition that I need more time to “be” rather than “do.” Part of it is wanting the freedom to spend more time talking with friends and acquaintances in a relaxed way (rather than fitting them into a small open block in my calendar). And part of it is my increased confidence that I am loved by God without doing anything, that I don’t need to constantly “do” to justify that love.

Do you know when to say no? If not, it might be worth spending some time reflecting on why it is hard for you to do so.


3 thoughts on “Knowing When to Say No

  1. Being able to observe you up-close here in MSP I’ve been wondering when you’d be writing this post. It’s a relief to read! Yes, we too easily forget — or dismiss as inapplicable to me — Ignatius’ admonition about the Angel of Darkness often disguing itself as an Angel of Light! You “nail it” when contextualizing this in light of the world’s many conspicuous and urgent needs!!!

    Peter J Gomes said it well: “An excess of virtue is more dangerous than an excess of vice! Yes, [for committed, gifted, Second-Week people] an excess of virtue is more dangerous [and LETHAL] than an excess of vice. Why? Because an excess of virtue is not subject to the constraints on conscience!” Many of us — most perhaps — need this reminder. My own delusion is to either think I must be “perfect” or, even worse, to think that I am God. Thanks for a much needed admonition.

  2. You’ve written this for so many of us “doers”. Yes, God loves me whether I “do” or I “be”. And so often, it is in the being that I best hear God’s voice.

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