How to Let Go and Say No
Saying yes too much blocks us from saying YES to what matters.
If you have ever attended a Jesuit school, parish, or retreat house — or read America or The Jesuit Post — chances are that you have heard us talk about the Examen. A lot.
St. Ignatius popularized this method of praying with one's day. Jesuits are still sharing it with anyone who will listen.
Most Catholics are familiar with the examination of conscience, which is helpful to do before confession. The Ignatian Examen is often described as an examination of consciousness. It includes a review of our moral life, but it also looks more broadly to see what God is up to and how we are responding.
In my recent book, The Freedom of Missing Out, I explore how we can learn to say no so that we can give a deeper yes to what really matters. The Examen is an invaluable tool for learning to do just that.
You can find many different versions of the Examen, many of which have five steps. One popular version is as follows:
1. Pray for light.
2. Review the day in thanksgiving.
3. Review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day.
4. Choose one of those feelings and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
That last step is key, particularly when it comes to saying no. If we wait until the moment we are asked to take on yet another commitment, the emotional baggage makes it difficult to say no.
It's often in time with God when we are more likely to let go and make a pre-commitment to say no to the nonessential. We can then give a deeper yes.
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