This is a guest post by Vinita Hampton Wright.
Most of us don’t like to receive no for an answer, but sometimes no is the best answer for us. No can prevent me from taking a wrong step; it can shut down a relationship that wouldn’t have worked; it can force me to learn a little patience.
And sometimes the no comes from me. Sometimes I’m the one who has to say, “That’s not right” or “I can’t help you with that” or “I simply don’t agree with this plan.” But it can be a lot harder to say no than yes. There’s much in my culture that conditions me to accommodate others, to go along with conventional wisdom, and to say yes even when no serves the higher purpose. No can make a person pretty unpopular—to the point that the person gives in and simply goes with the flow.
This is why the Ignatian principles of discernment are so critically relevant, now and at any time. When I go through a process guided by my beliefs, my reason, my prayers, and my interior signals, I come to my no—or to my yes—with much more confidence and resolve. When it’s time to say no, I say it without regrets and second-guessing. I say it even if it hurts.
You can learn—and learn to practice—the principles of discernment from any spiritual director trained in Ignatian spirituality—and most spiritual directors are at least familiar with it. Also, read about making good decisions in Chris Lowney’s Heroic Living, in Joseph Tetlow’s Making Choices in Christ, in Margaret Silf’s Inner Compass, or in my Days of Deepening Friendship.
May whatever answer you give be a yes or a no of integrity and grace.