“No” is a Great Word. Five Biblical Reasons For Using It

by Joe Plemon on August 6, 2010

How do you handle these situations?

  • Your best friend lives from one financial crisis to another. She asks you to loan her some money for groceries “just until payday”.
  • Your 18 year old nephew who works sporadically and has never saved a penny begs you to co-sign a loan so he can buy his very first car.
  • A relative wants to borrow your car “for a few days” while his is in the shop. This is the third time he has made this request in the past three months.

Are you OK with saying “no” or do you acquiesce with a nagging regret in your gut? Do you wish you could say “no” when you need to?

These five reasons should help:

1.  Saying “no” allows the Law of Reaping and Sowing to work.

Galatians 6:7-8 tells us that we will reap what we sow.  God has not given us this law to punish us but to teach us. When I overspend and don’t have enough money for food, my hunger is God’s way of teaching me that my financial irresponsibility is not working. But if someone blocks the consequences of my actions (feeds me), that person is not allowing me to reap what I sowed.  Your compliance (saying “yes” when you should say “no”) may be in direct conflict with God’s laws. Say “no” and let the other experience those consequences. It is for his best good.

2.  Saying “no” will not reinforce negative patterns.

Proverbs 19:19 tells us, “Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”  This proverb is not about hot-tempered people; it is about rescuing people who get themselves in a pickle.  Doing so communicates the expectation that you will do it again and therefore reinforces a negative pattern of behavior.   Have you done that with friends (making a short term loan “just this one time”) or children (making excuses for their behavior to teachers or law enforcement agencies) or co-workers (covering for them when they leave work early)?    Every time you enable someone’s irresponsible behavior, you are setting the stage for that behavior to be repeated.  Saying “no” may not be easy for you, but it is best for the people you care about.

3.  Saying “no” demonstrates respect.

What?” you say, “Isn’t loaning money to my friend for groceries a form of respect?” Not really. Think with me on this one. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) tells us “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Now put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself, “Would I feel respected if my friends always bailed me out of every mess I got myself into?” Probably not. Deep down inside you know that the best ways others could demonstrate respect is to encourage you to bail yourself out. When you say “no” you are actually respecting your friend by demonstrating a belief that she can help herself.

4.  Saying “no” is truthful.

When you say “yes” with your words, are you simultaneously saying “no” with your thoughts? If so, you are being dishonest with yourself and your friend. Ephesians 4:25 tells us, “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” Being truthful is not always being pleasant, but being untruthful (saying yes when you mean no) is a recipe for hidden anger and bitterness. Honesty is the best policy and your friend, though he might not like it at the time, will nevertheless respect you for it.

5.  Saying “no” is a catalyst for positive activity.

God expects us to be active, not passive. Jesus taught his followers to ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:7-8). He rewarded those who used their talents and punished the one who hid his, referring to him as a “wicked and lazy” servant (Matthew 25:15-30). God has no issue with those who try and fail, but he will clearly rebuke those who fail to try. Trying and failing is a learning process, but failing to try is tantamount to giving up. If your friend lacks initiative, saying “no” may be just what he needs to move from passivity to activity.

Concluding thoughts

We often say “no” because of our own insecurities. We imagine others will reject us or withhold love from us if we fail to cave to their unreasonable expectations. It may be that you need to look in the mirror and ask, “why do I have trouble saying ‘no’”? Whatever reason you discover, I encourage you to give “no” a try. You will be a better person for it and your friends will be challenged to work through the issues that are holding them down.

How about you?  Does saying “no” seem mean spirited?  How are you at saying “no”? When is the most difficult time for you to say “no”?

Creative Commons License photo credit: BeneBeneBeneBene


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie August 6, 2010 at 7:34 am

I find it hardest to say no to myself. I don’t just mean regarding things like having a bowl of ice cream (although I have that problem too), but I have problems telling myself not to volunteer to “help” people. I have to remind myself that people are better off helping themselves in many situations.


joeplemon August 6, 2010 at 8:45 am

I have zero ability to say no to a bowl of ice cream. My solution for getting ice cream out of our house is to eat it.

About saying no to volunteering…my hunch is that you are a naturally compassionate person with a servant’s heart. But you are right in that many times people are better off helping themselves.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc August 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I agree. I initially learned this from the Boundaries book, by Dr. Henry Cloud, which I read after you reviewed it. I do think that saying no can be the most loving thing that we can do in many cases, contrary to popular belief. Regards, Shawn


Invest It Wisely August 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

This is a really great post, Joe.

If only more people would stop voting in politicians that allow them to say yes to everything… yes to cheap home credit, yes to bailouts, yes to tax credits, yes to well, pretty much everything.

We can certainly help those out who need a helping hand, and who can benefit from it, but protecting people from the consequences of their own actions can backfire.

When you have a kid and you want to teach them not to burn their hands on the stove, I have heard that a good way is to heat up the burner just enough so that it’s uncomfortable but not so much that it burns. You then let them touch that, they go “ow!”, and they learn their lesson, without damage done, and they never try and touch it again. It works better than trying to explain to them why they shouldn’t touch the stove or always worrying if they might touch it. Experience is the best teacher!


joeplemon August 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Boundaries is a great book, isn’t it? Most of the principles in this post came from what I learned from reading the book.

Thanks. I am glad the message of saying “no” came across.

That is a unique thought: a politician who knows how to say “no”. Politicians interfere big time with the law of sowing and reaping, yet think it is their duty to protect us from our own stupidity.

I never intentionally allowed my kids to burn themselves, but when they did, it was a great lesson not only to respect fire but to listen when mom and dad tell them something is dangerous. The reality is this: they wouldn’t REALLY believe us until the learned by experience.


Invest It Wisely August 7, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Oof, well, I’m sure they believe you now when you say that fire is dangerous. I’m glad that your kids weren’t seriously hurt. Usually things are ok, but I said what I did because once in a while, there will be that one kid that pulls something off the stove by mistake and then there’s a big accident and scars. On the other hand, you can teach your kids so much, and not watch them all the time, especially as they get older. You can only teach them the best you can, treat them like responsible adults as they get older, and hope that they make good decisions and learn from their mistakes.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial August 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Great article! It is very important to say “no” to people when it’s for their own good. Many times they won’t see it that way for a long time – or maybe never – but at least you can know that you did what was right!


joeplemon August 11, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Yes, Khaleef, that IS the point…to do what we know is right even if others don’t understand. Many people never understood (and still don’t) Jesus, but he never wavered his principles one iota. And he always did what was best for us.


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