Why I Learned to Tell People No (and that’s a good thing)

Me displaying my strength of being a "Silly Uncle"
Me displaying my strength of being a “Silly Uncle”

Last week I spent a few hours creating a “gifts inventory” that discussed things like spiritual gifts, strengths, weaknesses, personality, things I love to do, things I don’t love to do, and what kind of ministry fits me best.

The idea to do this came from a conversation with my dad about how I often find myself doing things that just don’t fit me.

I’m the kind of person who will help anyone with anything.  This is good since we don’t always get to do things we enjoy. However it’s important to have a clear understanding of the gifts and abilities God has given us, and allow that to help us decide which ministry opportunities the Lord wants us to pursue.

For instance here for me an ideal ministry would be one that:

  1. Focuses on relationships
  2. Clarifies the teachings of Scripture in a non-public teaching role [1]
  3. Emphasizes Mercy or Service Gifts
  4. Is with young children, or teenagers
  5. Is a role with a team instead of a leadership position

On the other hand things I don’t necessarily enjoy would be

  1. Administrative duties (paperwork, meetings)
  2. Making a decision that would directly affect the lives of other people
  3. A teaching ministry that is academic or detail oriented (find myself focusing on the paperwork more than the teaching itself)

Now here’s the deal…I can and will gladly do these things since they are obviously part of life. The problem arises when a ministry emphasizes (focuses on) over a long period of time something that I’m either not gifted towards, or is a weakness.

This has led me to begin doing something that is incredibly painful for me.
I have to tell people no

You see I happen to be a big softie who absolutely cannot stand to see people in need. Again this is a good thing since God created me this way (it fits well with mercy and service gifts). However that also means I’m willing to do whatever the person needs:

  1. Even if I’m not very good at it (not a strength)
  2. Or I don’t particularly enjoy it
  3. And know there is another person who would do a much better job

I would respond this way since in my mind saying “sorry that just isn’t something the Lord’s given me a gift for” would be incredibly rude and selfish.

But recently my mind’s done a complete turnaround and I view it as loving

  1. Since I am being honest with the person about my weakness instead of trying to protect my own pride
  2. Since they will be able to find someone who is truly passionate about that kind of ministry
  3. Since I know that this ministry can easily become a source of division between us
  4. Since it allows me to keep a good Christian testimony [2]

A few days ago someone asked me if I could help them with something (a long-term ministry), and though it made me feel like the biggest jerk in the world I said no.

Because I knew they could find someone better
Because I knew this wasn’t something that God had given me the ability to do with excellence
And because I loved them too much to say yes


  1. discipleship, Bible Studies, sharing the Gospel in everyday life, counseling  ↩
  2. my frustration will build  ↩

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