For such a little word, No can be really difficult to say for lots of reasons. We don’t want to disappoint someone or have them be angry at us. We feel guilty for not doing what someone else wants us to do or what we think we “should” do at the expense of what we want to do or feel we are called to do.

When we can’t say “no”, we give our life over to the plans and convenience of others and abdicate taking control over ourselves and our plans for our future. The cost can be great – why do we give up responsibility for reaching our goals and keeping our commitments to ourselves and instead take on responsibilities that rightfully rest with others?

There are times when saying “yes” is the best answer. But we must understand, as Cloud and Townsend have said, we are not free to say yes unless we are completely free to say no. If when we say no, our NO is not acknowledged and respected and we find ourselves giving in or avoiding saying no at all, then our “yes” is really nothing but avoiding conflict, peacekeeping, and approval seeking. It is not the gift of a true yes.

If we are practicing our “no” with someone who doesn’t want to hear it, it is important to remember that “NO” is a complete sentence.  You can still be polite, and say something like “thanks for the opportunity, but that doesn’t work for me right now” or “that just doesn’t fit with my schedule right now,” or something similar. BUT, don’t get pulled into thinking you have to have an “excuse” that is more important than what they are asking for. You don’t have to give excuses, defend or debate your own decisions. You don’t have to get them to agree that your choice is correct. To enter into that conversation takes you into a power struggle or the danger of accepting false guilt for not being who or what they want you to be.

No is not a bad word. It is a protective word, meant to protect your boundaries, your needs, and your plans. With your kids, it’s also a word to protect and teach. Your kids will learn to have boundaries and respect others’ boundaries as they see you live them out. There is no greater gift than a free yes, but to be able to give a free yes, you must be able to give a solid no.

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