How often are you faced with situations where you know you should say no, and you may even want to say no, but you don't? For many of us, it happens often, maybe even virtually every day. So how do we deal with such situations?
Our difficulty often lies in our not wanting others to think badly of us, so we find it hard to say no. Yet, if we refuse to say no, we can end up getting in trouble or hurting ourselves or others. We can get taken advantage of by failing to say a polite but firm no.
Consider some of the pained rationalizations and excuses you've probably heard:
* "I knew he was driving too fast, but I didn't know what to do about it."
* "I knew it was illegal to drink, but the others wanted to."
* "I didn't want to buy it, but the salesclerk pressured me."
* "I didn't agree with the group, but I didn't want to stand out as different."
* "I shouldn't have given in, but everyone else was doing it."
Situations like these often place us in compromising positions with our beliefs and standards, family rules or personal desires. But there are reasonable and friendly ways of saying no. The next time you're faced with the dilemma of knowing you should say no, consider some of the following advice and responses.
Go by the rules
Put your refusal on an impersonal basis. This helps counter the problem of being pressured into something, whether at school or with friends. When faced with invitations to smoke, try drugs or alcohol, cheat or engage in immoral or illegal activity, explain that your family set specific rules that you choose to follow. So, the answer has to be no. It may be hard at first, but often you'll find that your friends will respect you more when you take a stand against such things.
Going by the rules can also help when faced with people who drive dangerously, drink illegally or otherwise exert an unwanted influence over you.
An excellent example, expressed lyrically, is found in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical production "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." It takes us back to the biblical story of Joseph, a talented, good-looking young man who, though a slave, managed the estate of Potiphar, an Egyptian nobleman. Things were going well for the young man until the nobleman's wife tried to seduce him.
The scene with the woman goes this way: "Joseph's looks and handsome figure, Had attracted her attention, Every morning she would beckon, 'Come and lie with me love.' Joseph wanted to resist her, Till one day she proved too eager, Joseph cried in vain, 'Please stop, I don't believe in free love.'"
The biblical account describes how she repeatedly tried to seduce Joseph. But he resisted, telling her: "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he [her husband] kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9).
But she persisted. "So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me.' But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside" (verses 10-12).
After his repeated refusals to engage in adultery, to betray not only his master but his God, Joseph has only one option: to literally run from that evil!
This incident is echoed millennia later in the apostle Paul's words: "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Joseph politely refused when pressured by the boss's wife to do wrong. He didn't weaken about what he knew was right. Her proposal would have been against the rules of Joseph's spiritual Father--God.
Joseph simply didn't allow that sort of thing in his values and lifestyle. When she continued her adulterous attention toward him, he avoided the source of temptation as much as possible--he kept away from her. When she finally trapped him alone in a compromising situation, Joseph simply had to flee the scene.
The Bible records how Joseph paid a steep price for his refusal to compromise. Potiphar's wife turned around and accused Joseph of attempted rape, and he was jailed. But in the end God richly rewarded Joseph for his sterling character and refusal to give in to sin. The rest of the story tells us how Joseph eventually became the second most powerful and influential man in the kingdom of Egypt, a superpower of its day.
Say no by showing what needs to be done for a yes
What do you do when a salesperson pressures you to buy something you do not want? You might explain that if you are shown the exact thing you want, in the color and style you want, and for the right price, then you might buy.
Don't give in to doing things against your will. We can learn from the tragic love story of strongman Samson. He became romantically involved with a woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4). Caught up in steamy, heady emotions, he became entrapped through a behind-the-scenes plot. The local Philistine rulers set him up by paying Delilah to snare him (verses 5-6).
On three occasions Delilah asked Samson to reveal the secret of his great strength. For a while he successfully put her off until finally, under the pressure of constant questioning and being asked to prove his love for her, he relented.
He suffered much for it. The story's heartrending end tells the sorry consequences of giving in when he should have stayed firm to his convictions (verses 15-17, 21). God's way--the way of a good and upright life--should be a much higher priority than the pressures that try to make us give in.
Be firm when right is right and don't yield to wrong
When others suggest something that you can't do, or don't want to do, offer some alternatives. Tell them, "I'm sorry, but I just can't do that. However, I'd be glad to join you if you'd like to try this other idea instead." You may just end up saving the entire group a lot of trouble.
Say no by asking others to walk in your shoes
One way you can courteously refuse is by helping other people appreciate your problem in having to say no. After all, what would they do if they had your homework to complete? What would they do if they had an exam coming up and were being asked to neglect preparing for it? What would their answer be if they had to face your priorities?
Explain to others that your refusal is the proper and sensible thing to do at the time. This helps reasonable people understand why you have to say no to their request.
Along with asking others to walk in your shoes, it also helps to try and walk in theirs. It's also wise to avoid coming across as if you are better than they are.
When faced with the need for a delicate refusal without hurting others' feelings, be firm but kind. If being enticed to go against your principles, be strong in character to choose right and say no to wrong. Remember that a refusal is more readily accepted when given in a warm and friendly manner.
So, when faced with having to say no, do it gracefully--and add a smile!