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Updated: Nov 21, 2022

There is an odd positivity in the ability to say NO. When we say no to some desire, some request, some activity, we are possibly creating the opportunity for something else to appear. In religion there is an idea called the “via negativa” which attempts to describe God by describing all the things that God is not. (We UUs are familiar with this!). This forces one to get clarity by making finer distinctions. I am often clearer on what I don’t want or don’t believe or don’t appreciate than what I do.

In the moments when I remember to consult my own inner wisdom, I sometimes find that I want to say NO to something, even when I don’t quite understand what I want instead – what I want to say YES to. But, the act of saying NO, creates the possible ground and space for YES to appear. Even when the soul doesn’t have clarity about exactly what it wants, I have learned to lean into its inclination to say NO. Sometimes YES is the path of busyness or material possession or pleasing others. While the YES isn’t clear, the path of having created space often yields a positive inner feeling for me. I am one who suffers from AMS – afraid of missing something --- which leads me to say YES to many things. It sometimes leads me to a hectic life which can feel devoid of “soul”. Even when I can’t describe what “soul” is, I know I want more of it! And the only way to get more of “it”, is to say NO to what I intuit will not lead me there. Saying NO has within it a faith that YES will appear. The writer David Whyte has said “One way to come to YES is to say NO to everything that does not nourish and entice our secret inner life out into the world.”


Oh what a sacred word

we are loathe to say,

to ourselves, to our desires,

to others with their demands.

“No” builds a fence around

what must be protected.

It clears a space,

holds up a stop sign.

“No” seems harsh on the outside.

A hedgehog, a cactus.

But it is the loyal guard dog

of our inner life.

Barking when necessary

to tame the part of us

that wants everything…

the part that so wants

to please everyone


~Penny Hackett-Evans

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