The Spiritual Practice of Saying “Yes!”

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about the spiritual practice of saying “no”.  I stand behind the suggestion that there is value in discerning what is ours to do and what is not ours to do and that a growing self-awareness around why we say yes or no is a good thing.

The other side of knowing what is mine to do and what is not mine to do is this: The Spiritual Practice of Saying “YES”.

Any Pastor or leader of an organization that requires a great deal of volunteerism to function can attest to how frustrating our culture of selfishness can be.  The people who are inclined to say yes to everything do all the work and then burn out and become resentful about the people who are inclined to say no to everything. It’s as though the world is divided into martyrs and slackers.

The truth of the matter is that when I am filling every part of my life with busyness and meeting everyone’s needs and am resentful and bitter and self-righteous about it all, it sure doesn’t feel like I’m “more spiritual” or “more Christian” than the guy who spends all his time avoiding commitment so he can entertain himself to death.  Yet at the same time, one of the biggest lies that surrounds us is that if we “get all our needs met” then we will be happy.  When the need for  pedicures and a new boyfriend and the latest gadget and lots of “me” time and more money is met then we will pull the lever and the jackpot of human happiness will pour out onto the floor.

What is really twisted is how I can basically turn almost any form of selfishness magically into being a virtue if I just call it “self-care”.

And at the same time, there are weeks in my life where stopping everything and just spending an afternoon going to a movie so that I don’t totally burn out and lose it is the best thing I can do for myself, my church, and my family.

Some of us need to know how to say no to what is not really ours to do.  And some of us need to know how to say yes to what might be ours to do, we just don’t feel like doing it. And most of us are both of these people.

But any yes that results in a feeling of self-righteousness or resentment of others is not the spiritual practice kind of yes.  It’s just another form of self-centeredness when I think I am better than others because I am so selfless.

So, I wonder if maybe freedom and gratitude, and NOT guilt, co-dependancy, self-hatred and self-righteousness might be the best sources for healthy “yeses”


So here are some yes examples:

There’s saying yes because I need to escape my own self-centeredness and it’s a blessed relief to think about someone else for awhile.

There’s saying yes, for example, to cleaning up after church because it might not be my joy, it might just be my turn.

There’s saying yes to giving away 10% of my income because it frees me from that amount of money and releases it into the world where it’s less likely to be hoarded or used to indulge myself and more likely to do good.

There’s saying yes because I’m so grateful for what I have and I have to give it away to keep it (my church, forgiveness, sobriety etc)

There’s saying yes because community is at its best when everyone does their part to support what they believe in (Thanks NPR!)

here’s the best one:

There’s saying yes because it is an act of freedom and a response to God’s yes.

If anyone ever figures out how to get all of this right, please let me know.  Also, if you attend a church, for the love of God, please say yes to giving money and helping to clean up. :)

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at

  • Charles Oberkehr

    Great thoughts. You started me thinking. Maybe there’s a spiritual practice beyond saying yes or no. The spiritual practice of saying “oh well, what the hell.” It’s a surprisingly powerful practice. I used to be very resistant to its wisdom. Until I realized that yes or no, it’s still mostly about me. I’ve been learning to say “oh well what the hell,” more and more and much, to my surprise, things seem to turn out OK.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • An Authentic Life

    Love it! Not only is saying no important, so is saying yes!
    Nice, thoughtful reminder!

  • Matthew Musteric

    Love the line about twisting things into “self care.” I know exactly what you mean about taking in a movie / taking off an afternoon being the best thing for myself, my family and my congregation. Keep up the good work.

  • Ron Luckey

    Thank you for this post today, N. I am grateful that you let the “other shoe drop” after yesterday’s words about saying, “no.” Being the good Lutheran theologian you are, you nailed it–that without the cross of sometimes obediently and selflessly saying “yes,” saying “no” becomes just another form of triumphalism and naked narcissism is allowed to parade under the guise of self-care. I will be curious to see if you get as many effusive responses to today’s blog post as yesterday’s.

  • K. Pythia Theocritos

    This was such a wonderful blog post I just had to say so publicly. Even though we do not share the same religious beliefs, I find your words to be wise, often poignant, and just what I need during those off days. You show a great sense of humility, courage, and plain humanity that is wonderful to read. I think the Greeks would call that “arete?”

    Another fantastic blog post and I look forward to the future ones that will hit my inbox.

  • Sandra Orrick

    Once upon a time I was a believer in exile, unwilling to allow myself to be labeled again, and then I began to ponder the value of commitment. It seems that most of our choices involve a weighing and balancing and we can only say yes or no in spite of our self interest, not in light of it. For instance, we tend, unfortunately, to be proud of our humility.

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  • Becky Bonham

    Thanks for these last two posts. I’m one of the busy volunteer-oriented-by-nature people you mentioned, so here’s the rule of thumb that’s worked for me: I say yes to what is driven by joy and passion, and no to what is driven by guilt. Then my giving is a gift, not a grief (to myself and/or others), and it energizes, not drains me. All the same, I appreciate the reminder that we all have duties that are just part of making life work, and I try to commit myself to those too…with or without the passion! Peace~

  • Lisa Larges

    Sometimes the mark of a really great blog post is in the thoughtfulness in the comments that follow it. Thanks for 2 really great pieces and for bringing a community together.

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