For years I asked myself why it was so hard to say no when my dad was molesting me. It is such a simple two letter word yet I could not form it in my mouth or shout it out at him. ‘No’ might have prevented the whole thing, ‘no’ may have scared him away, and ‘no’ might have saved me from carrying that awful memory all of my teenage and adult life. ‘No’ has so much power behind it yet no is the one word that has taken me years to learn to say.
The question plagued me all through my adult years as I found myself in all sorts of situations where ‘no’ was the best answer and I ended up saying yes or simply not saying anything at all. Why? What caused me to be so weak and frail? I knew that my inability to say no would cause me more pain and heartache.
My conclusion is that I feared saying no. I feared not being liked. I feared not being good enough. I feared rejection. I feared what people would think of me. Fear left me powerless to say the one word that would save me from even more hurt. How bizarre is that!
The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear and that fear involves torment . Torment was most certainly a reality for me on most days and as that torment grew, so did the wall around my heart. Even though the wall grew stronger my ability to say no didn’t change. I grew less fearful as God patiently and tenderly poured His perfect love into me, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Slowly I began to understand His love and acceptance. In time I started to value His opinion above people’s opinion. Living to impress God and not other people gave me a new found freedom that I had never known. It didn’t come quickly though, it took years of hard work and a firm decision not to care about what people thought of me.
With this freedom came an ability to say no. There is most definitely a connection between self esteem and the ability to say no. Either you are the sort of person that says no to everything by default or yes to everything. Neither is healthy or good. The ability to make a wise decision and execute your decision with a firm yes or no is one of the signs of freedom.
Types of ‘Nos’
There is the obvious ‘no’ that I should have learned such as ‘no I will not have sex with you’ and ‘no you cannot touch me there’. No matter how much I really didn’t want boys to treat me the way they did, I always felt that they would reject me if I didn’t let them have their way.
Now that I am a mother, I try and find ways to make my children feel totally comfortable with saying no so that they can avoid getting themselves into this sort of situation. Most importantly, I try to help them develop their relationship with God so that they know that He is the only one that they need to please in this life – EVER. My husband is more pleased because I live by this rule, my children are more pleased and I am more pleased. Pleasing God overflows into every area of our lives.
The less subtle no is the ‘no’ to busyness. It seems harmless and a lot less dramatic than sexual abuse, but it is not as harmless as you may think. Many women can’t say no to church duties for example. It is a different scenario but the same root – FEAR.
Fear of not being accepted by the pastor or church leaders, fear of not looking as spiritual as other team members, fear, fear, fear! Women in church are too busy, completely overloaded with ‘works’ simply because they fear the consequences of saying no. Yet when Mary said no to the busyness just to sit at Jesus’ feet Jesus said :
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary unashamedly said ‘no’ to the work and simply sat at Jesus’ feet! She was free to say no because she knew what was important at that moment. How many of us are scurrying around like busy bees trying to serve our best to Jesus. Our heart is to please Him, our desire is to serve Him. All good intentions with a seemingly pure heart, but is it really? Are we perhaps so busy trying to earn His favour that we are forgetting that it can’t be earned? We already have it – in full measure. He already loves us and accepts us the maximum that is possible. If we truly understood this I think we would do a lot less and sit at His feet a lot more.
Women of God, be free to say no to Church busyness when you need to, I am sure Jesus would say the same to you as He said to Mary,
“You have chosen that good part and it will not be taken away from you.”
Find out more about how I found freedom through saying no my book 'Free'. More chapter snippets will follow soon, full details about this book are available here