When do we say YES and when do we say NO? Making choices can protect our self from unhappiness — or from happiness! Here are some quotes from writers about the values of saying yes or no. And you’ll notice some contradictions between the writers; these are offered as food for thought, not the final answer.

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When you learn to say yes to yourself, you will be able to say no to others, with love.

— Alan Cohen

Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.

— Anna Taylor

Say Yes. Whatever it is, say yes with your whole heart & simple as it sounds that’s all the excuse life needs to grab you by the hands and start to dance.

— Brian Andreas

I never intended to disappoint you. You created a one sided promise I never agreed to. Note to self: A request is not an obligation. A one-side promise is the recipe for resentment.

— Brian Schwartz

It takes effort to say no when our heart and brains and guts and, most important, pride are yearning to say yes. Practice.

— Cole Harmonson

For all that has been,
Thank you.
For all that is to come,

— Dag Hammarskjöld

I don’t know Who — or what — put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone — or Something — and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

— Dag Hammarskjöld

In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.

— Dorothy Parker

…there are often many things we feel we should do that, in fact, we don’t really have to do. Getting to the point where we can tell the difference is a major milestone in the simplification process.

— Elaine St. James

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

It takes true courage and real humility to say NO or YES!

— Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

This is what is hardest: to close the open hand because one loves.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

It is good to be helpful and kindly, but don’t give yourself to be melted into candle grease for the benefit of the tallow trade.

— George Eliot

A diary means yes indeed.

— Gertrude Stein

Honoring your own boundaries is the clearest message to others to honor them, too.

— Gina Greenlee

No is easier to do. Yes is easier to say.

— Jason Fried

When I claim more than what I can handle, I limit the opportunities for another person in my community.

— Jeff Shinabarger

It is the delusion that the self is so separate and fragile that we must delineate and defend its boundaries; that it is so small and so needy that we must endlessly acquire and endlessly consume; and that as individuals, corporations, nation-states, or a species, we can be immune to what we do to other beings.

— Joanna Macy

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, and don’t put up with people that are reckless with yours.

— Kurt Vonnegut

Not every opportunity it meant to be my assignment.

— Lysa Terkeurst

Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman.

— Lysa Terkeurst

Although the act of nurturing another’s spiritual growth has the effect of nurturing one’s own, a major characteristic of genuine love is that the distinction between oneself and the other is always maintained and preserved.

— M. Scott Peck

If you travel far enough, one day you will recognize yourself coming down the road to meet you and you will say yes.

— Marion Woodman

All the mistakes I ever made in my life were when I wanted to say No, and said Yes.

— Moss Hart

What’s helped with saying no to others is asking myself first if I’m saying yes out of guilt or fear. If so, then it’s a polite no.

— Neil Strauss

If you must say yes, say it with an open heart. If you must say no, say it without fear.

— Paulo Coelho

When you say YES to others, make sure you are not saying NO to yourself.

— Paulo Coelho

Sometimes we receive the power to say yes to life. Then peace enters us and makes us whole.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no meaningful yes unless the individual could also have said no.

— Rollo May

People that hold onto hate for so long do so because they want to avoid dealing with their pain. They falsely believe if they forgive they are letting their enemy believe they are a doormat. What they don’t understand is hatred can’t be isolated or turned off. It manifests in their health, choices and belief systems. Their values and religious beliefs make adjustments to justify their negative emotions. Not unlike malware infesting a hard drive, their spirit slowly becomes corrupted and they make choices that don’t make logical sense to others. Hatred left unaddressed will crash a person’s spirit. The only thing he or she can do is to reboot, by fixing him or herself, not others. This might require installing a firewall of boundaries or parental controls on their emotions. Regardless of the approach, we are all connected on this “network of life” and each of us is responsible for cleaning up our spiritual registry.

— Shannon L. Alder
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