Rev. Catharine Is Currently
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The Powerful Gifts of Disappointment and Saying No

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The Powerful Gifts of Disappointment and Saying No

Might you want to connect with some other people on their spiritual journey, receive some coaching on your own path, and have the opportunity to witness and learn from others? I am offering two small groups at two different times, one that meets twice a month, and the other once a month. There is room for two people in one group and three in the other. Please just hit reply to this email if you’re curious, want to talk about the possibilities, consider whether such a thing might be for you, or just to check in!

Beloveds –

I have a dear mentor who I haven’t seen in years, but who has given me many gems of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that have stayed with me. She knows a lot about being really sick. Having breast cancer, a life-threatening case of E. coli, and another potentially fatal infection that led to a hysterectomy, all within ten years, she learned a lot. Like, a lot about how to get through being really sick and being a minister at a large Unitarian Universalist congregation.

One of the things she realized was that she had to disappoint people. She just had to. She couldn’t live into the life that she’d had before she’d gotten sick. She couldn’t do All the Things. She couldn’t go to All the Places. And she couldn’t see All the People, as much as she loved them. I remember hearing the senior minister say that she welcomed receiving cards, but that phone calls and visits were not welcome at that time.

“What good boundaries,” I thought. “How clear that is!” I don’t know why it struck me as so revolutionary at the time, but it did.

Later, she told me that she had to make a spiritual practice of risking disappointing someone every day. Of dealing with the emotional fallout that could come from someone who didn’t want to hear her “no,” who came by the house with food. (This was long before dropping things off with no notice, and just letting someone know afterward was a practice as it is now. Ah, COVID, how you have changed us.)

She knew that she had a finite pool of energy, and that it was small. She knew all she could really do in a day was maybe shower and take herself back to bed and talk to her partner when she came home from work. That was it.

It reminds me of the No Ministry I’ve written about here before. Let me see whether I can find the wonderful quotation I’ve loved so much. <<rummage, rummage>> Ah, found it!

The writer speaks about the joy she gets from saying, “no,” and how liberating it is, but she goes further: “I also love when folks tell me no. It’s a blessing to get a NO. It means the divine timing is not there….Start saying no and praising when you get a rejection, and watch stuff shift for you.” From The Nap Ministry.

Saying “no” risks disappointing someone. But it also opens a door for both the giver and the receiver. It makes space. It makes room for love and Divine timing to enter into the equation between the two interlocutors. It can be a loving action between the two of you. It can even be a way to express deep love and care for another person – I love you, and I can’t do this thing you’re asking of me because I think it would make me resentful and damage our relationship as a result. Or I love you and I know you love me, and you will respect that I am not saying no willy-nilly. I am saying no because I need to.

The thing is, you/one/I don’t have to express that justification. We don’t have to justify why we’re disappointing someone. How’s about them apples?! Just typing the words, I feel a little anxious inside. But, but, but what if someone gets angry with me? It’s important to ask yourself, first of all, whose wrath are you risking incurring. It’s also important to remember that if someone needs more information and if you are in a close enough relationship that such a conversation will be helpful, they can ask and you can answer. And finally, remember that, as Rabbi Hillel is said to have said, “If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?”

Saying no, as well as risking the disappointment of others, are a spiritual practices for many of us, especially for those of us—and I mean no dog whistling here—who were socialized as girls. Or in any way socialized to believe that “nice” was the highest good. Nice, modest, humble, accommodating…you can do the math.

Now the Nap Ministry writer says that she says “no” 90% of the time. I need to be honest here: I cannot imagine getting to that place. 90% of the time, wow. I think for now, my practice is going to be noticing when I can say no. When the opportunity for “no” presents itself. When I have had the chance, whether I’ve taken it up or not. Whether I’ve risked disappointing someone or not.

And when I do, when someone pushes back and says, “I’m really disappointed,” I can practice attending to how that feels. Do I feel pushed to change my answer, or do I attend to the wisdom of the Nap Ministry? Do I actually change my answer? When I am accommodating other people’s needs at the expense of my own?

How can you say no today? How can you make room for your own self by allowing the yes that opens up when you say no? Because of course, that is what happens. Every time I say yes when it’s pressured out of me, one way or another, I am saying no to myself in some other regard.

So let’s practice saying no, shall we? Let me know how it goes, and we’ll see what happens!

Blessings, as ever,


PS – Don’t forget about the small Spirit Groups! I’d love to have a conversation with you about them. Just hit reply, and we’ll make a time to chat about whether one might be right for you!

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