Dear Loved Ones #3 – Honouring Your ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

By Rob Rutledge September 26, 2018

She comes in many forms. She’s older and lives alone. She volunteers her time to many causes, always taking care of others. Perhaps she’s part of a religious community; perhaps she takes care of stray cats. Sadly, she’s in the midst of cancer treatment and getting really tired. Her many friends have offered to take her to the appointments, but she has stubbornly refused.

Today she is so weak she can hardly stand up, and needs to get to the hospital for a transfusion. In a flash of frustration and resentment, she thinks to herself “Where are my friends now?!! No one cares about me. I’ll handle this myself!!”

Can she catch herself and see that her self-image as ‘the one who takes care of others’ is just a made up persona – or does she fight the inevitability of being dependent on others. Does she call a friend or a taxi?

For her and so many of us independent types it’s worth taking a giant step back and asking ‘What’s this life all about?’ If we truly understood that we all have limited time on this earth, how do we want to live our lives? The wisest people I know say our relationships are most important. Expressing our love in this world is the goal.

So how do we set up this game of life so we can maximize the opportunity to connect deeply with others? This beautiful spirit mentioned can reframe her situation of needing a ride as an opportunity to show vulnerability, allowing others to express their love for her.

Saying ‘yes’ goes beyond accepting the offers of others (which in itself would be a major breakthrough for many of us). We can proactively seek help and connection. Send the email, make the phone call. Tell people what you need. You would do it for them – so why wouldn’t they do it for you?


She also needs to learn when to say ‘no’. These giving personalities are at risk of losing their life force energy by constantly trying to please others. The guilt of saying a polite ‘no’ (even when appropriate) can be overwhelming. Interestingly, it’s the same distorted view of herself ‘as the caregiver of others’ that stops her from saying ‘yes’ to help, and ‘no’ to too many requests of her time and energy.

Here is the paradox. The purpose of why we should take care of ourselves, keeping our lives in balance by saying ‘no’, is to strengthen our psychological/spiritual foundation so we can love others more. Ultimately when we say ‘no’ appropriately, we are saying ‘yes’ to love.


Dr. Rob Rutledge

Oncologist, Nova Scotia Cancer Centre

Associate Professor, Dalhousie University

CEO / Chair of


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