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Episode 49 // Just say no! Some practical ways to set healthy boundaries, say NO when you need to, and stop being a people pleaser.

What are we talking about today?

Boundaries can be so difficult. But if we want great relationships, we need healthy boundaries! Not to mention, the huge impact they have on our mental health and emotional wellness. 

Yes, even as Christians… we need to feel confident in when to say no and how to say it!

So today, we’ll start off with a look at what the Bible says about boundaries and then dig into practical skill-building to help you say NO when it’s necessary. 

It’s okay if it feels uncomfortable right now. In about 30 minutes, you’ll feel a lot better about your boundaries! Let’s dive in. 

Listen to Episode 49:

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Snag your resources here!

If today’s topic is meaningful to you, you’ll also want to check out these earlier podcast episodes that connect with this same topic:

  • Episode 13 // Boundaries are so important! But do you really know what they look like?
  • Episode 18 // 4 quick tips to family boundaries when you’re an overwhelmed and busy mom!
  • Episode 27 // How To Grab Some Quick ‘Me Time’ In Your Daily Schedule… Without Dealing With Mom Guilt About Your Self Care!
  • Episode 37 // Stop comparing yourself to other people! 5 strategies to help you crush comparison-itis, stop mom guilt in its tracks, and build more genuine friendships.

Let me also offer a FREE resource that I know will be helpful!

  • Grab a copy of my FREE Conflict Resolution Checklist.  When conflict is escalating, just pull this out and walk through the 10 steps to improve communication and restore harmony.

[This post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.] 

Today's Episode Highlights

Let’s start things off with a quick look at the Bible. Is it really okay for Christians to say “no” to people sometimes?

I’ll point you to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:

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

Clearly, saying “No” is okay, and even encouraged so that we are not breaking an oath!

When Jesus Said No

Before we dive into some practical tips for how we can say no (and when we should say it), let’s look a little more closely at how Jesus handled saying “no” to people.

  • Matthew 12:46-50… He’s talking to the crowd and they tell him that his mother and brothers are outside wanting to speak to him. What does he say? Basically, he says no! He creates a teaching opportunity about discipleship.
  • Matthew 19:13-15… The disciples rebuke the people bringing children to Jesus, but Jesus effectively says NO to his disciples. He invites and encourages the children to come to him. 
  • Matthew 20: 20-28… James and John (two of Jesus’ disciples) have their mother ask Jesus for them to sit at his right and left hand in the Kingdom of God. Does he say yes? Clearly, Jesus is close with these two men, and perhaps their family as well. Nope! Jesus corrects her (and their) line of thinking and does not agree to something He knows is not right. “You don’t know what you’re asking,” He says.
  • Matthew 21: 23-27… The chief priests and elders ask Jesus a direct question, a challenge. He simply refuses to answer. 

Okay! We get it. Jesus did not always say yes. 

So let’s look at building our own skills and confidence with saying no.

First: Clarify your priorities

Spend time identifying your priorities – ahead of time!

What is essential for you? Where do you absolutely need (and want) to say YES?

This is likely things like: getting quality time with your husband and children, reading the Bible, eating and sleeping enough to feel healthy, volunteering, etc.

Those “big rocks” should fill your schedule first.

Second: Prepare for the moment of saying "no"

There are 3 steps that I want to highlight here. 

First, know your weak spots. When are you most likely to give in to pressure and say yes? If you identify this in advance, you can then talk to yourself in the moment and change that unhelpful thought process.

  • Do you find yourself thinking “They can’t do it without me” …. check your pride. That is rarely true. 
  • Maybe you find yourself thinking “I don’t want to let people down…” and feeling a little guilty? Remind yourself that you ARE saying no to something if you say yes right now! Free time. Self care time. A date night with your husband. Conversation with your kids. Sleep. 
  • Perhaps you find yourself feeling so anxious that you babble on and on… and then you say yes in the end? Review your priorities. Or try the next step… 

Once you’re identified those unhelpful thought processes, it’s time to PRACTICE.

Practice, practice, practice. It really will build your confidence!

    • Say NO as often as possible for awhile.
    • Start with the really obvious, “I would hate this” things, and say no there. It’s easier when it’s really obvious.
    • Start with digital requests! It’s easier to type or text a “no” response than to say it face-to-face with someone. Just make sure you don’t start to only respond by technology… that is not helpful long-term. 

Finally, have a go-to response already prepared and practiced, like “Thank you for the invitation, I’ll need to check our family calendar.”

Again… practice that response! Get really comfortable with it.

Third: Stay strong regardless of their response

  1. Do they start trying to guilt trip you? Get out of the conversation quickly. 
  2. Do they get angry? Stop explaining yourself and get out of there quickly. 
  3. Are they panicked or worried? If you can, try to help them solve the problem without your help or time. (If you think you’ll just give in, then exit and follow up later.)
  4. Remind yourself of your priorities. 
  5. If you’re struggling, PRAY! God delights to give us wisdom and strength.

Finally: Handle the fall out

You can control your own willingness and ability to say no, but you cannot control the other person’s response.

Remember: if your “yes” is required for the relationship to work, it’s probably not a very healthy relationship. You may want to do some deeper work in the relationship or re-assess the relationship all together. 

It also might be helpful to avoid the person for awhile. Don’t put them in a situation to experience bitterness or struggle with anger. Of course, this may not always be appropriate!

If you are struggling with boundary-setting with a family member, grab my free copy of the 10-point Conflict Resolution Checklist. You’ll want to talk it through. Increase communication for awhile. Spend more time just having fun together, focusing on other topics. Don’t avoid them! Deal with the discomfort or anger. 

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A reminder of the Disclaimers & Disclosures Policy: I am an affiliate with many of the resources I recommend, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through my provided links. I never recommend products I don’t love! Also, I am a licensed therapist but this podcast is not therapy. It is not professional or personal advice to your specific situation. Get info about professional counseling here.