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.




What we’ve missed looking down


Over the course of the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly unhappy with my relationship to and dependency on technology. I don’t know if it’s laziness, complacency or insecurity, but I’m slowly forgetting how to just BE. I fear that by mostly looking down instead of all around, we are becoming numb to real emotion, real relationships and real experiences. There’s no room for discomfort, for confronting the hard things, and for handling life as people, not profiles.

To avoid introspection or a potentially awkward human interaction, we binge watch another TV show or lose sleep agonizing over the hidden meaning of a LIKE or the absence of a LIKE. Are those people really praying or just Facebook praying? If you use emojis do you ever have to be in touch with your real emotions? Really? Our society has come to this? It’s a recipe for judgment overload and social anarchy. I don’t think anyone can deny that civility is dying a cruel death on every front.

Since I addressed social media specifically, don’t misinterpret my feelings. I have a lot of love for social media and I’d be a hypocrite if I denied it. I enjoy keeping in touch with friends far and near. I am thankful for the ability to capture and archive moments as they happen. It’s a powerful channel for looking back and remembering in great detail some of the best memories of our lives. But where’s the boundary and when does it become too much? It’s probably a different answer for every individual, but just consider … if we all continue capturing EVERY moment in edited perfection, will we even recognize our own lives 20 years from now? What was real, and what was manufactured? When does the presentation of the moment outshine the moment itself? It seems unfair to our actual memories to get second billing.

I can’t remember the last time I managed to read a book cover to cover in a reasonable amount of time. I’m a fast reader and my supposed LOVE for books surrounds me on shelves, in boxes and ironically on my Kindle. Yet they’re all collecting dust. Why? It’s a part of me lost to distraction. I read books in chunks, and when I finally get to the end (mostly out of guilt), I lose track of important details that take too much effort to recall. I can’t hit refresh and get back what was lost when my attention was diverted. And my attention span grows shorter each year. Sure I’m over 40, but I don’t think growing older is the problem. It’s more that I’m growing away from the things I truly love and I’m replacing them with a shallow substitute of mind numbing content on a glowing screen.

Finally, I think about where this hits me the hardest. My family. I LOVE my family, but if I’m being honest, there are many days I probably spend more time on Facebook than I do in face time with them. Even if I’m talking about them, I’m not really WITH them. We have memories, but is anything ours alone? I won’t always get this balance right, but I’m going to pause more before posting this year. If I want to save a moment for me without sharing, I can always change my settings or do something crazy like print my photos or write in a journal! Mind blowing I know.

Please don’t misinterpret the tone of my rant. None of it is intended to be a guilt trip or a technology trash talk. These tools provide us with so many amazing ways to connect in the world. They give us access to information and experiences that we could have never imagined just a few decades ago. The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m using a tool of technology to share this, but at least I’m writing again – something I once enjoyed that predates my insta-babble. We just have to be cautious and not confuse this still very new frontier with humanity. Technology may fulfill some human needs, but it doesn’t have a heart and it doesn’t have the capacity to love you. No matter what you’re watching on the Sci-Fi Channel, none of it is REAL

This year, I want to remember what’s real. I want to reconnect to my humanity. I want to notice what I might never see when my head is down instead of up. I want to hear more by actually listening instead of staying locked inside headphones. I want to use all five senses again instead of primarily one. What have I missed already? There’s no way to turn it all off, but starting today, don’t be a part of the head down herd. Look up. What’s right in front of you is all you ever truly have to hold on to. Don’t let it go.

Look what I missed when I normally have my head down like everyone else in the Starbucks line. Who knew?