The Pain and Grace of No

Saying “yes” has been pretty easy for me, (although the call to religious life later in life mystified and puzzled me. For a while, no response made sense…until ‘making sense’ didn’t matter.)

I’ve been reflecting on my ‘yeses’ lately, wondering if some were offered too easily; spoken sincerely but without depth of thought; offered with good intentions but with a failing memory of how the proverbial Road to Hell is paved.

There are so many urgent needs in the world today that require a compassionate response – by someone, by anyone, by everyone. Saying ‘no’ seems implausible, cold, unkind, the antithesis of an authentic call to religious life; to any authentic life, really.

Yet I am discovering that within every ‘yes’ is often an unspoken ‘no’.  Every ‘yes’ proclaimed contains a benefit, but also a cost; one that can dilute the impact of the ‘yes’.  It might be burnout, frenzied living, a sense of superficiality - of spreading oneself too thin. We simply cannot do everything we want to do, no matter how badly we want to do it, no matter how desperately our ‘yes’ is needed.  Perhaps in these moments of anxiety God is hushing us to stillness, asking us to pay attention, to listen, and to trust.

Grace is revealed in the pain of our ‘no’s...grace that liberates us to do the work God is calling us to.

Kathy Flynn, OP
Sinsinawa, WI

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