The Grace to Say NO

One of the best things that parents can do for their children is to teach them to have clear standards so they can navigate once they are away from home or out on their own. Standards are simply moral guidelines, a set of principles, boundaries that you don’t cross, a fence of protection. Young men and women need to have standards so they are not caught unprepared by the circumstances around them.

Parents may have standards for their daughters when they are living at home, things like curfew, dating or not dating, movies, music, etc. But these have to be internalized in order for them to do any real long-lasting good.

Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…” I like the way the NIV renders this passage. It’s something like “teaching us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly lusts…”

Young women in particular need very much to learn to say, “No.” It does not come naturally to most young women because they are usually way too worried about hurting feelings or being rude. Somewhere along the way, women developed a fear of being rude, even if it means being on the receiving end of quite a bit of rude conduct from men. It may start out innocently enough. For example, a young man asks a young woman out on a date. Now he has not done anything deserving of condemnation for that. It’s a free country, and the operating assumption of most young men is that they are supposed to pursue the opposite sex. But let’s say that she is horrified at the idea of being with him, but more horrified at hurting his feelings, so she says, “Sure.” Then she has an uncomfortable evening, going somewhere she does not want to go with someone she does not want to be with. When it is all over she sighs with relief, and after enough of these dreadful experiences, she begins to learn to say something like, “I’m sorry, I’m busy.” But then he calls back another time, and she is forced to deal with it all over again. This pretty much sums up the typical American system of dating.

Having standards in place for such things keeps life simple. When a man asks a woman out and she doesn’t want to go, she should say something like, “No, thanks.” It’s not that hard. I have encouraged young women to practice in front of the mirror. Just start with the N sound and then add the O sound when you get good at it. It is a wonderfully liberating thing for a woman to be able to look someone in the eye and very simply, clearly, audibly say, “No.”

I remember when I first began to try this technique (after years of frustration, complication, and regret). A young man asked me if I would like to go to the rodeo with him. I said, “No, thanks.” He said something like, “Don’t you like rodeos?” which was an unfair and impolite question. He should have just taken my answer with dignity and grace and moved on. But no, he had to pry. So I said something like, “No, I have nothing against rodeos. I’m just not interested in dating you.” Much to my surprise, the earth continued to rotate. He did not fall down dead or anything, He just said, “Oh. Thanks for telling me.” End of trouble.

Now if young women can manage such a feat as that, it will keep them out of many uncomfortable circumstances. Maybe the relationship is in the context of courtship, the young man is speaking to Dad, and everything is going smoothly. Dad is doing the dirty work, which is as it should be. But what if the young man who has gotten past Dad gets a little pushy physically, and she doesn’t know how to say, “No”? Or he wants her to lie to her parents about being late, or takes her to a party where people are drinking too much. What will she do in these cases if she has not learned how to say the big “No” word?

Girls should be learning this from day one. It can be a movie at a friend’s house that she’s not comfortable with or having some guys come by her apartment late in the evening and wanting to come in for some fellowship. It can even be learning to say, “No thanks” to a babysitting job that she just doesn’t want. The first thing is to get over false guilt that comes in the guise of supposed “rudeness”; and next it is having standards that are clearly in place. If a daughter can’t say no to a babysitting job she doesn’t want, how will she stand up to friends who want her to do something bad?

Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts is something that the grace of God teaches us how to do. It is not something that women are naturally good at. It is not simply a matter of writing up some rules. It takes courage and faith to say NO to ungodliness. But God’s grace teaches us. We have to be listening. We must want to learn to do this, to internalize the biblical basis for our standards, so that we understand them to be wise.

So, what kind of standards do women need to live by? You need standards about what you think.What you say.What you listen to.What you will read and watch.What you will laugh at. How you dress. What makeup and jewelry you wear. How you drive. How you walk down the street. What you will post on myspace. Who you will receive phone calls, email, or instant messages from.The kind of people you will befriend. The kind of parties you will attend. The kind of gifts you will receive.The kind of men you will spend time with and where you will spend that time.

In other words, God’s grace is needed to instruct in every area where ungodliness and worldliness are threats, and that is just about everywhere.

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12 thoughts on “The Grace to Say NO

  1. Spot on again. Thanks. But to me it’s more than just worldliness. My husband has been teaching me to say no when I’m really too tired or busy to be saying yes -even when it might in itself be a good thing to do.

  2. Great post, Mrs Wilson.

    I was wondering if you would mind making suggestions for a baptism/christening (kinda paedo) celebration? I’ve loved the Sabbath Feast ideas you’ve given. Perhaps, after reading my explanation/details, you could turn it into a blog post. I have it all typed up, but don’t know where to e-mail it. (Assuming, of course, that you don’t say, “No, thanks.” )

    In Him

    Meredith with the pegs

  3. Thank you. I’m going to have my young daughters read this. You are so right about not standing up for yourself and saying NO.

  4. As suggested by you to post here, here’s my question. Sorry it’s so length. Brevity is not my strong point.

    I was wondering, since you’re so great with ideas for sabbath feasts and all, if you have any suggestions for a party to celebrate the baptism of our children. Phil and I are the only Christians in our family (well, Phil’s mum is, too – she goes to church and she is a paedo-baptist). We have previously subscribed to the credo position but have become convinced of the paedo over the past couple of years. So, now we have 6 children to baptise (2 would be credo anyway: 10dd and 9ds. They’ve been asking for a while (and these were the only 2, due to several relocations, that we’ve even managed to have “dedicated” too!)).

    We’d like to make it a big celebration that we can invite our non-Christian family to so they get a bit of an idea what we’re on about. Phil’s sister, not a believer but well-loved by us, had her daughter baptised (Anglican church), so we’d really like to demonstrate the difference between believing (parents) and not, without it seeming as though we’re having a go at her (’cause we’re not).

    Do you have any ideas? I’m not real good at formal celebrations. We now attend a Westminster Presbyterian church (FWIW).

    Thanks so much.

    In Him


  5. This post touches a very soft spot in my heart. I was one of those single woman who spoke ‘too busy’ rather than ‘no’ to several young men, who then persisted in pursuing. In all cases, things ended badly, but in one particular I ended up genuinely hating a brother in Christ for what was happening. That has been resolved, but I still ache for the damage I caused because I did not have the courage to give an honest answer. Nancy, thank you for the encouragement to our unmarried sisters to speak truth lovingly to our unmarried brothers.

  6. Natalie, I’m right there with ya! Thankfully, saying, “Let me check with my husband first,” is an easy way to defer and make sure if I should be saying, “No.” Recently, I answered “yes” to something I should have checked on thinking, “Oh, it won’t affect him.” Was I ever wrong!! It just goes to show that if you don’t learn to say no when you’re unmarried, getting married won’t help matters–just change the nature of the request!

    Meredith, FWIW, we invited family and friends to our church for our childrens’ baptisms. (Some are non-believers, most are just of a different denomination.) The pastor preached on baptism specifically–every time–which accomplished much of what you said you wanted to accomplish. Then we all had a big meal afterward and our guests asked plenty of questions which we were able to answer with out coming across as pushy. The invitation looked something like…

    The honor of your presence
    is requested as we celebrate
    the sign and seal of God’s covenant with
    (insert name here)
    in the
    Sacrament of Baptism

    (clip art picture of a paedobaptism)

    at Your Church
    Your Church’s address


    …let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…
    …for the promise is for you and your children…
    Acts 2:38, 39

    (Brevity is not my gift, either! 🙂 ) Hope that helps some!

  7. Thanks, Billie

    I’ll try not to hijack this thread, suffice to say that I do hope Mrs Wilson makes a thread of it. I am also looking for details of what to “do” at a big dinner/lunch. I came from a small family who lived on the other side of the country from the other relatives. “Celebrating” is all kind of new.

    Loved the invitation and sermon idea, though.

    In Him


  8. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this… I needed to hear it. I’m a single girl who has been flung into a vortex of horror for every man who has made advances. My nightmare as a girl in my young teens was having to tell a guy no, having to break a guy’s heart. And now I’ve had to do it so many times… each time tearing me to shreds inside. This encouragement meant a lot to me. I’ve never read an article or heard anything that specifically addresses this issue. It’s so needful and you did such a great job presenting it. You described me so well and I love how no-nonsense this was :). Thanks!

  9. NO is a hard thing for me to say. But God is continuing to teach me the beauty of truly saying NO when thats what I want. I am the learning the balance and the freedom the comes from saying NO. This is such an important issue because it protects us from people pleasing. Take Galatians 1:10.. who are we trying to please God or Man. If we were still trying to please Man we would not be a servant of God. God is a jealous GOD and he wants all of our devotion. So of course he wants us to learn discipline in taking care of ourselves first then over flowing our cups in the avenues God wants.. not in avenues which we clearly need to say NO.

  10. What is wrong with using the King James Bible? Why do you have to use other translations? The King James is God’s preserved Word for English speaking people. He has told us in several places in the Bible not to change His Word. All the other translations are based on the Alexandrian manuscripts. Only the King James is based on the Antiochian manuscripts.

  11. I know I’m a few years late on reading this post, but thanks anyway! A great reminder for me!

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