How often do you find yourself faced with a situation where you know you should say no, and you may even want to, but you don't because of what others may think? For many of us, such situations happen all too often. So how do we deal with them? How do we keep from acting against our better judgment?
The 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 could even end up breaking the law of God.
If you find yourself taken advantage of because you can't bring yourself to utter a polite but firm no, consider some of the excuses you've probably heard:
• "I knew he was driving too fast, but my friends were in a hurry."
• "I knew it was illegal to drink, but the others wanted to."
• "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 desires. But it is possible to come up with 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.
Go by the Rules.
Make your refusal impersonal. This helps counter the problem of being pressured into doing something you know you shouldn't do, whether you're at school or with friends. When faced with invitations to do things you know you shouldn't—smoke, try drugs or drink alcohol illegally, cheat or engage in illicit activity—explain that your family members agree to follow specific rules so the answer has to be no. This may be hard at first, but you'll find your friends will respect you more when you take a moral stand.
Going by the rules can also help when you're faced with people who drive dangerously, drink illegally or too much, or otherwise exert an unwanted influence over you.
An excellent example, expressed lyrically, is 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, although a slave, managed the estate of Potiphar, an Egyptian nobleman. All was going well for the young man until the nobleman's wife tried to seduce him.
The seduction scene, according to Mr. Webber, 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 Potiphar's wife repeatedly trying to seduce Joseph. But he resists, 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 the woman 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 immorality, his decision not to betray his master—and not to disobey God—Joseph has only one option: to literally run from the 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. He recognized the would-be seductress's proposition as a slap in the face of Joseph's spiritual Father, the Creator God.
Because of Joseph's values, he simply would not allow that sort of thing to occur. When the woman persisted in her amorous advances, he avoided the source of temptation as much as possible: He kept away from her. When she finally trapped him into a compromising situation, Joseph simply fled.
The Bible records that Joseph paid a steep initial price for his refusal to compromise. Potiphar's wife accused him of attempted rape, and Potiphar had him thrown in jail. In the end, however, God richly rewarded Joseph for his upstanding character and refusal to sin.
The rest of the story reveals Joseph eventually becoming the second-most-powerful and influential man in the ancient superpower of Egypt.
Say No by Showing What Needs to be Done for a Yes.
What do you do when a salesman pressures you to buy something? If you are interested, you might explain that if you are shown the exact item 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 Samson, an unusually strong man and one of the heroes of ancient Israel. Samson became romantically involved with a woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4). Allowing his emotions to get the best of him, he ended up the target of a sinister plot. The local Philistine rulers set him up by paying her to snare him (verses 5-6).
On three occasions Delilah asked superman 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, flattery and accusations that if he didn't answer her he must not love her, he relented.
Samson suffered for his indiscretion in confiding in Delilah. The story's heartrending conclusion reveals the ugly consequences of giving in when one should have held firm in his convictions (verses 15-17, 21). We should place a much higher priority on living a righteous and upright life than on activities that could place us in compromising situations.
Stand firm when you know you're right. When others suggest you do something you don't want to do or know you shouldn't do, offer 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 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 and why you have 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 helps to try and walk in theirs. It's also wise to avoid coming across as if you think you are better than they are.
When faced with the need for a delicate refusal without hurting others' feelings, be firm but kind. If you're being enticed to go against your principles, be strong in your resolve to choose right and say no to wrong. Remember that a refusal is more readily accepted when given in a warm and friendly manner.
When faced with having to say no, say it gracefully and with a smile. GN