The courage to say no, yes to self-care and a Pope

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Pope Francis Holds His Weekly General Audience

Sometimes having courage means taking a step back from the many activities and roles we have in life. A year ago on Friday, Feb. 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down as the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.

What can we as students learn from a leader involved in so much, in so many people’s lives, who had the courage to know when enough was enough for him? To say, “no, I must step down”?

Daily, you and I feel the same stressors in our lives. We are committed to our school work, we rely on our jobs to pay for school, we have families, friends, social activities and innumerable things that dictate how we spend our time.

Often, I find it extremely hard to say, “no, I cannot do this.” And so we often continue to almost blindly allow our responsibilities to mount higher and higher. Most times, it is not until we reach the top that we become “scared of heights,” stressed and frazzled over the countless roles and activities that use our time and that use us.

Even though Pope Benedict was the spiritual leader of over a billion people, perhaps he had not yet reached his mountain top. I would like to entertain the idea that he knew he would have soon been physically and mentally overwhelmed by his responsibilities as Pope – and he decided it was his time to say, “no, I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities; please elect another person to carry on my work.”

What courage it must have taken for him to do this! But what an example of humility and self-care this is for us who are not pope, yet have the same types of struggles and challenges of continuing on when we are overwhelmed.

He said “no” to something great, but said yes to something better for him and for the Church. People were shocked that a Pope would resign. Often people are disappointed with us when we stop the activities that we love (or don’t).

But from Pope Benedict’s “yes,” came rest for him and for the Church – and the world, simple Pope Francis.

What activities and roles are you looking down at from the mountain top now? I know I am looking down at many things and trying to find the courage to say “no.”

We cannot do everything. But sometimes it is healthy for us to say “no” so that in the future we are healthy enough to say “yes” to new adventures and so that now, we can more clearly experience the joys that are present in this moment.


Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.