No - that is a powerful word. When you watch a toddler begin to communicate and interact with the external world no is a pretty common word for them to say. Often in my head in many situations I feel like a toddler screaming "No NO NO!" But externally I hear myself say "Ok, sure. I'll help out" or "I'm not busy. I can come to that event."
But really I want to stay home or I can't really add another commitment to my list of things to do. One of the biggest times where I say yes to something that I really don't want to do is when I'm shopping and the cashier asks if I'd like to donate to a charity. I always feel obligated to say yes even though I don't want to.
Before I go on about the donations at the cash register I want to be clear that I think it is very important to donate time and money to all sorts of charities. And the work that is done by volunteer groups is very important and often a necessity for those who have few options for support. I regularly donate both my time and money to charities and organizations that I feel are important and think that practicing generosity is a very important thing for everyone to take part in. I am referring only to the collection of money at a large store when you are checking out.
This collection process is a pretty smart way to collect money for charities. There is minimal overhead. The donation amount is small and I'm in a situation where I am already paying for groceries or something else so I can't use the "I don't have cash" excuse. And if I do say no, I feel as though I'm being cheap or selfish for not giving to others.
Here's the thing though, I chose charities to donate to throughout the year. Every year as a family we pick one cause to raise money and give to in addition to the charities I regularly donate to. So this is an extra bit of cash I haven't planned on doling out. For the most part, I'm not going to need to file for bankruptcy because I've been asked to donate $2 to a children's hospital but when you look at the overall contributions over a series of shopping trips these little donations add up.
This week alone, I have donated over $20 to charities. This is all money that I hadn't intended on spending. So I have decided that I'm going to take my spending power back. The next time I'm asked if I'd like to donate to a charity I am going to say "No thanks. I already have." Because that is the truth. I decide on the amount of money I chose to donate over the year and I don't need to feel pressured to give more.
The best statement to help me remember that it is ok to say no is...
"No one can make me feel guilty without my consent."
Any emotion can be substituted for guilty but in this case guilty works. Beyond feeling pressured to give, there are so many things we feel pressured to do especially this time of year. We can take back a bit of the control we feel like we're giving over to others by simply saying no. And if that guilty emotion begins to tug at our resistance remember those words.
This is a busy and expensive time of year. The sense of obligation to buy gifts for others and attend concerts and parties is almost overwhelming. What we need to focus on is what is driving our intention to attend parties or buy gifts. Are we doing so from a place of generosity or sharing? If that answer is no, then maybe we need to reassess our response when asked to attend.
I always feel that work parties should be entirely optional. Technically I am paid to spend the time with my co-workers so attending a Christmas party shouldn't feel like work. If I want to be generous and buy a gift for someone if should be done from a place of sharing. Once you examine your motives for your behaviour, saying No should become a little easier.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't be generous or spend time celebrating with others but if the decision to give time or money doesn't come from a place of sharing within you then does the act of giving really have the same meaning? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but only if we give into it. Our needs should come first and once they have been addressed there will be room for so much more.