Many people think that spirituality has to do with putting other people's needs before their own and, as a result, are afraid to say "no." Many of us were taught that putting our needs before the needs of others is an act of selfishness, and selfishness is believed to be a negative trait.

While it may be the ultimate in spirituality to reach out and share with others, it is not spiritual to allow ourself to be used up so that we have nothing left to give. When we say "yes" to people who would abuse our friendship, we do neither them nor ourself a service; we merely reinforce, and implicitly condone, their self-centred behaviour.

Saying "no" to those who are oblivious to the negative effect they are having on us is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourself. At the same time, we are helping the other person to recognize and take responsibility for his actions. If instead we allow him to continue abusing us, we are in effect teaching him, as well as telling ourself, that it's okay to allow oneself to be abused, a lesson that is hardly spiritual.

We may need to ask ourself why we keep giving in to those kinds of people. Do we think we're being compassionate, or is our motive perhaps a self-centred one: for example, a fear of rejection, or a desire to project a positive self-image?

As much as we might like it to be otherwise, the word "no" has a vital part to play in spirituality: no to being used and taken for granted, no to those who would take our energy and give nothing in return, no to those who constantly complain, no to those who make us feel guilty. By the same token, we need to say "no" to ourself: no to feeling sorry for ourself, no to blaming others, no to worrying and expecting the worst, no to wishing we were somewhere else or somebody else, no to being unhappy, no to putting ourself down. If we're afraid to use the word "no" then how can we possibly know when to say "yes."

A tree can't keep on producing oxygen or providing fruit and shade without first taking in nourishment. Spiritual growth is about learning how to give, but in order to give to others we have to know how to give to ourself: how to nurture our own ego until it is strong and healthy so that we will be able to give the best of ourself to those around us.

Author's Bio: 

Bernard “Ben” Willemsen, is a spiritual teacher and personal counselor. He is the author of Don’t Water the Stick: The Path of the Psyche, The Spirit and I: The Evolution of Soul, and Water Your Roots: Walking a Spiritual Path (May, 2009). Ben can be reached at the Centre for Human Energy Studies in Glen Haven, Nova Scotia by visiting his website