“No.” It’s Not a Dirty Little Word.


“No” can often be the most foreign, “positive” word we ever learn to say. But in the “no” we discover that we exist; we discover that we matter; we discover that whatever or whoever we say that word to cannot truly meet our deepest needs and desires if we were to say “yes.” “No” can actually liberate the soul – liberate the heart – and allow us to soar high above the things that have kept us down for so long.

Oftentimes, it is love (or acceptance) that is being sought and we fear that if we say “no” we will somehow nullify those two things in our lives. But that is not true because as I told a friend one day, “love just is…it is not something deserved,” so basically, we can quit trying to earn it. Instead of working feverishly to prove we are worthy enough, start learning to recognize what love looks like (I choose to base my definition of love on the Biblical examples described in I Corinthians 13), and then begin to practice love in those ways and surround ourselves with people who reciprocate love in those ways.

When we begin loving people with the I Corinthians 13 model and start allowing (and expecting) to receive love in that way as well, we begin to realize that “no” is not a dirty, selfish word. In fact, it begins separating out and pushing away those things that drain us and keep us from feeling alive.

I used to be afraid to tell people “no.” I used to think they would be disappointed in me or judge me or feel as if I didn’t care about them. Today, I am probably a rip-roaring “no-addict” (ha) because I am fiercely protective of my time, my mind, and my heart. It is what keeps me sane and alive and in tune with the things I am supposed to be doing and the people I am supposed to be helping.

“No” is about setting proper boundaries. The word in not intended to be used to get out of our responsibilities of daily living or to wield power over another human being. Rather, if used in the proper context, it can help keep our children safe from harm, reduce the amount of unneeded stress in our lives, and keep us from doing a disservice to others, which always results when we say “yes” out of a need for confirmation of self-worth.

In addition, saying “no” in healthy ways, especially with our children, is essential. “No” can be a negative term if that is all they hear every time they do something that is a natural course of their developmental growth. When we begin to send only negative messages to our children regarding their behavior, it is human instinct to rebel and want to test the limits. If we could present the appropriate behavior as the standard of conduct, rather than shouting no’s and don’ts and stops and quits and cant’s, it will likely produce more right choices than wrong (see image below).


This can also translate into our personal, business, and religious lives. If we find ourselves hurried and rushed and stressed to the max, perhaps it’s time to take personal inventory. My rule for taking on additional tasks is to ask God if that is His will for me and to honestly assess whether it could propel me further into the calling on my life or if it could potentially take me in the opposite direction. I am learning that my identity is in Christ alone and I am free to stop doing activities I have clearly participated in to prove my self-worth to others. I don’t need to prove that.

Here’s a practice run for you:

“Hey, can you do __________________________________?”

Your response: “I appreciate you considering me, however, I have other obligations. I know you’ll find the right person!”

What do you think?