How to Say “No”: Two Basic Rules from a Clergy Spouse

Feel like you’re being selfish if you say “No” to a congregational request?

Too often we think being a good Christian means putting loving others before loving ourselves. We become door mats for Christ. But Jesus commands us to love ourselves fully, to be able to love others fully.

Love others as well as you love yourself.” Mark 12:30 The Message

When it comes to responding to requests, I think Jesus calls us to respond in a way that honors ourselves AND honors others. It’s a kind of spiritual integrity, where I treat others AND myself as children of God, equally worthy of God’s love.

The behavioral term “assertiveness” comes to mind. When I relate with others in an assertive – not passive or aggressive – manner, I do not treat myself less than another person, nor do I treat the other person as less than me.

Most of us, as clergy spouses, have little problem saying “Yes” to a congregational request. It’s the “No” where we falter. That’s when I hold tight to Jesus’ commandment and go to prayer for discernment.

How would you respond to these congregational questions?

  • “Would you tell the pastor to please pray about my mother’s health issues?”
  • “Does the pastor want the choir to process on Christmas Eve? Can you ask?”
  • “We heard you led a Bible study at your last church. Will you be starting a group here?”
  • “Can you make sure the pastor calls me to finalize a few things for our mission trip next week?

You might be a clergy spouse who wants to answer “Yes” to questions like these. Or, maybe you’re blessed in never having trouble finding a gracious way to say “No.”

If neither is you, if you struggle with the “No” word, I invite you to check out this video. I share two rules that have proven incredibly helpful in keeping me from over-committing. And I include my favorite ways to ask for additional time or information to ensure that my “Yes” or “No” is of the Spirit, and untainted by guilt, people-pleasing, resentment or a misplaced sense of what’s my responsibility.

Got a question? Have a tip for other clergy spouses? Was this helpful? We’re building our next program to help CS with aligning expectations and maintaining boundaries. Your comments will help!…

– Julie Anderman


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