On Being Told No

I’ll cut right to the chase: I don’t like being told no. Who does?

In my line of work I ask lots of people for lots of things. It feels like I am constantly making “asks” and this raises all sorts of anxiety for me. I fear being a burden, or annoying, or the person people dread receiving emails from (here we go again).

Recently I made an ask that had a lot of hope attached to it. I was told no. I fought for it. Still no.

I felt pretty crummy about this no. Then I read this. (Miller also talked about this at the World Domination Summit: how to find redemption in suffering/stories that don’t turn out the way we want them to).

So, in that spirit, here are four blessings that come with “no’s”.

  1. It forces me to pray more: you’d think I do most of my praying before/during/immediately after the ask. Rejection has a way of revitalizing my prayer-life like nothing else.
  2. The process of asking is clarifying: whether the answer is yes or no, the process makes me think deeply about what I am asking for, why I need it, and why it is important for whoever I am asking to be included in this effort. Asking produces clarity.
  3. No’s make me work harder: I’m not sure what this says about me, but yeses tend to produce laziness, a resting of laurels. No’s create urgency. Obviously, yeses are needed to get anything done, but a no drives up the energy levels in a more profound way.
  4. No’s produce character: I completely relate to Miller’s victim dialogue in the article on disappointment. It’s so easy to go there. In the end anything we receive when we ask is a gift. It’s so easy to take credit for a yes, to think I “earned” this. And, similarly, to blame someone for a no. But it’s all a gift. Maybe a better way of saying it is: no’s reveal character. And that can be painful, but ultimately necessary.

What do you think? What do you learn from “no’s”?


Standing For Freedom

FREEDOMHeading into 2012-2013 I was excited and sure about several things SojournBU would do this  this year. We’d have multiple “cadres” (small groups), throw some good parties, and hopefully get involved in our neighborhood work and other causes.

But I had no idea what those other causes would be.

Turns out human-trafficking has been the theme of the year. In the fall our students raised nearly $1000 for Amirah Boston a local organization specializing in aftercare for trafficked women.

This past weekend SojournBU participated in the International Justice Mission‘s (IJM) campaign: Stand For Freedom. Stand has been taking place on college campuses all spring all over the nation as college students have rallied to raise money and awareness for anti-trafficking to be a priority for the Obama administration. We were excited to participate.

I have to admit that I had fairly low expectations heading into the weekend: we’d had to reschedule due to weather once, and had some trouble securing space with the school. In the end we hoped to get 200 people to sign the petition and to have a few good conversations and stories along the way.

Instead, we will send 1000 signatures into IJM this week. We had many, many conversations and lots of great stories. Amazing!

While the issue itself is important and worth fighting for, I love all the intangibles that come out of an event like this.

Several of our student’s had friends come out and sign the petition or stand with us. New people got to see another aspect of who we are and what we care about.

Most of all, our students experienced success and rejection. While our numbers far exceeded our expectations, there were also several people who wanted nothing to do with us. Some made jokes about the cause. Others questioned if slavery and human-trafficking are really actuall issues in the 21st century.

It’s an important, but hard, lesson. Not everyone will be on board, not everyone will be a fan of what we do, and sometimes you just get flat-out rejected in life and (especially) in ministry. Handling that with grace and compassion is a huge sign of maturity and growth.

One of our leader’s posted this on Facebook after the event:

Some things I learned over the past two days:
1) I can’t expect everyone in the world to support the things I am passionate about. While it seems like a no-brainer to sign a piece of paper that simply states that modern-day slavery is wrong, I need to respect the people who would rather not be involved. I know there are many causes that I believe to be good and true that I don’t participate in.
2) It’s easier to be frustrated with the people who don’t care and harder to be encouraged by the people who do! 930+ people in Boston stand for the fight against human trafficking and that is incredible.
3) I am an activist and I like that.

I love it…that, as much as anything, is why we do stuff like this!