A Lost Word: No!

Such a small word—two letters, and yet dreaded by so many!

I am not speaking of the common everyday usage of the word, such as: “No, we are sorry, you did not get the position.” Or, no, you may not take another cookie.” Instead, I am speaking of when the word is used in a way that calls us to make a choice. It’s easy to follow the usual ways people say no to us—most of those require little thought or ascent of the will. It is far more challenging when attention must be given to accept those negative responses or orders.

When we want something or even someone, deeply enough, hearing a “no” answer can often cause a pain ripple to travel through our minds. Frequently this leads to us finding ways to work around the no answers we receive. This is happening with increasing frequency in our culture. We go to Mass, Church or Temple, and we hear and read the Word of God informing us of the many actions we cannot take—most of the time we skip over those divinely given “thou shall not’s, or no instructions.” Eventually, we hear a no regarding something we are doing. Perhaps a university has a chance at receiving an “A” on an important test, all they must do is perform a little cheating. At first, their conscience will let them know that a little cheating is still cheating, which helps drive them away from such acts. But sometimes, the pressure or desire raises to a much higher level. Perhaps that same student is faced with losing a critical scholarship if they do not receive a certain grade-point-average—suddenly, that little cheating to obtain an “A” grade doesn’t seem so bad. That is how we sin—one little stealthy justification, and then we see a steady increase in our ability to reject the no answers in our lives. The many no instructions and orders are intended to protect us—yet if we deny those often enough, they are no longer seen as a moral good.

We all, in one form or another, live a life filled with such challenges. How we respond to those trials is what will define who we are at our real core. How do we act when no one is watching? Will we take the little cheating way out—or, will we stand firm and accept the “no’s” to similar acts we are tempted to perform? Oftentimes we fail these trials, and today it seems many people have rejected the idea of accepting a no response for anything they might do. This is changing our society in profound ways. We are slowly becoming a people who will justify all manners of acts because the word “no” has become a near evil to many.

Discernment and trust are required in significant matters. While it remains obviously true that individuals are free to choose against the no responses in their life, it is also accurate to say rejecting such responses given from love is rarely wise. Over the centuries humans have come to understand the general parameters of life, things that we should avoid because they do us harm, and things to embrace because they bring us toward goodness. However, we are living in a time in which people, especially younger men and women, seemingly want to toss out all the protective advice given by those who previously walked through the paths they journey. These same people appear to have little trust in those who came before them, including their parents and older family members—if they want to do an act, they’ll do it, no matter what anyone else says, and that includes what God has handed down to us in many forms.

The word NO is highly unpopular today, and that leads to great pain and confusion, and the people who reject these foundations have so watered-down their ability to see the truth that it is close to impossible for them to make required changes.

Hearing a no response is never enjoyable but, a mature and loving heart trusts those closest to them, and they do not reject the no’s they encounter without much conscious thought. Some may feel there are no consequences for ignoring such advice, yet disbelief does negate reality.

I hope more people will learn to accept the occasional negative responses in their lives, doing so with a humble heart might change their lives. 

T.P. Johnson


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