Why we need to hear NO


One thing is a constant from childhood through adulthood. Sometimes the answer is just NO. Your teenager says NO to an opportunity that you know would boost his confidence. Your boss says NO to the great idea you’ve been so passionately pursuing. Your jeans simply say NO to buttoning up. No matter what the issue, a NO always stings in the moment. And in that moment, no matter what our age, we will momentarily declare to ourselves…

That’s. Not. Fair.

And you know what? It probably isn’t fair.
It isn’t fair that you put the work in for that promotion or job, but the opportunity went to someone else.
It isn’t fair that you have to delay a family vacation to repair the roof or fix your car.
It isn’t fair that you just started exercising again only to step in a hole and sprain your ankle.
It isn’t fair that someone has written you off, when you know the motives of your heart and actions were good.

In all those situations and so many more, we won’t always get the YES we’re looking for, but all isn’t lost. In fact, I’m convinced that NO’s are essential for our survival.

Consider the archetype of the “spoiled brat”  – the little monster we all love to hate, but can never see in ourselves. This kid can’t even process the word NO. The brat pitches a fit and demands that the NO be changed to a YES, and right now! This child insists that the rules, the environment, and essentially the entire world shift on its axis to accommodate the concerns that are critical to him or her.

Watched the news lately? Does this logic sound familiar on both sides of the political aisle? Ever heard the terms “snowflake” and “safe space?” The world is full of Nellie Olsens and over sensitivity. Perpetual victimhood is exhausting and teaches us nothing. We have to tap into our maturity and wisdom and use them to our advantage. If we don’t, we’ll miss the greatest gifts that come with the NO’s.

When we hear NO, suddenly the gray areas of our life become black and white.
When we hear NO, we learn more about ourselves and what we value the most.
When we hear NO, we can move out of gridlock and make the hard decisions.
When we hear NO, we can better accept our lack of control and acknowledge a God who is IN control.
When we hear NO, we identify the people in our life who are truly in our corner.
When we hear NO, we can steer our ship toward a definitive YES on a different shore.

Imagine if every NO you’ve ever heard in your life had been a YES? Would your life look the same? Would there be a huge It’s a Wonderful Life kind of gaping hole in the life you lead every day? Would you even be with the same people?

While we all hold some regrets and might desire a do-over or two, looking back affords us the perspective to find purpose in our disappointments. When we don’t handle our NO’s gracefully, we risk becoming the unholy terror who always gets what she wants, but not always what she needs.

The next time you hear a NO, don’t throw a fit or a pity party. Remember the immeasurable power it has to transform your life. Allow it to lead you away from the kids’ table to the front of the adult buffet. Before you know it, you’ll have so many wonderful YES’s to choose from that you’ll be coming back for seconds.