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I heard a wise person say, “Your ‘yes’ means very little until you can also say ‘no’.” People who can say “no” have the courage to tell the truth about themselves, making their “yes” trustworthy.
“No” is a small, easily spoken word. Yet summoning the emotional energy required to say the word is often difficult. What makes it so anguishing?
Tragically, we have been trained to withhold “no,” because our sense of belonging has so often required that we not tell the truth. Here are some experiences that convince us that “no” is dangerous, along with truths that can encourage us to practice saying “no.”
- Experience: “No” means forever.
Truth: Most of the time “no” means not right now.
- Experience: Saying “no” makes people have feelings we equate with a relationship ending. If someone feels hurt or sad, then we are mean or cruel.
Truth: We really don’t “make” people feel. They do that on their own, whether we are there or not.
- Experience: If we don’t say “no,” we will be favored or loved forever, making our selves eternally in the good graces of power.
Truth: If we don’t say “no,” we are being used by the very powers that will never offer us freedom or love.
- Experience: If I say “no,” I will be banished to the-forever-alone-place.
Truth: There are a bunch of people waiting for you to say “no” who will appreciate your honesty and trustworthiness.
- Experience: What we learn from experience in childhood, we often project on to the rest of life.
Truth: There are many people in the “bigger” truthful life who wish for us to join them with our own unique identity. To join them, however, you and I will have to hear and say “no;” we will have to practice truthfulness, not prophecy, with them.
While “no” is a little word, it is very important for us to practice saying. It can set us free to live with others in love. Love can be trusted, but not without being able to say “no.”