There are many, many, many resources and articles and books and blog posts around these days about the power of saying no. It’s something we’ve not been trained to do, especially women, and it leads us to taking on more responsibility than we want or is healthy, obligating ourselves to do things we don’t enjoy or want to do, and not establishing clear boundaries for ourselves.
And that’s just in the the mundane sense.
Spiritually, we too often let dogma draw our boundaries and prompt us to say no, and even then we cite said dogma to justify away our guilt at drawing that line. Most of us have a much harder time saying no in return, defying what our chosen tradition or path teaches us, choosing our own convictions when they contradict teachings and ideals. Instead, we do so in secret. We quietly disagree, we sneak under the radar in our disobedience. We tell ourselves it’s our own choice and doesn’t need to be known to others.
Only, that’s exactly what leads to spiritual evolution. Traditions change — they always have and always will — and they change because the people upholding those traditions decide over time that certain things no longer make sense and adopt new ideas instead. And on a personal level, we learn far more from the instances when our own ideas and ideals conflict with those espoused by our religions and traditions than we do just from adopting dogma as is.
Our reluctance to say no in terms of our spiritual life is due to the same factors which keep us from saying no at work or at home. We’re taught that it’s better to be agreeable, to be cooperative, to be giving and helpful. Especially in a spiritual context, disagreement and conflict are considered violations of spiritual principles in and of themselves, not even considering the content of the disagreement. Many traditions teach us to open ourselves up to truth, even when it’s difficult or something we don’t want to hear, which makes us feel guilty if we come up against real cognitive dissonance or points where we really ought to put our foot down and take a different direction.
But is this healthy? Does this actually lead us to anywhere fulfilling or truthful, spiritually or otherwise? If we live our lives unwilling to say no, unwilling to refuse to do things we’ve not willingly chosen, unwilling to turn away from ideals which don’t make sense to us, is there any point to the paths we go down? Are we really growing if we always say yes?