Some Thoughts on “No.”

No. It’s a complete sentence. No can be hard to hear and hard to say.

On Hearing “No”
When we invite or ask someone something and hear a “no” in response – it bothers some of us. It’s unhealthy when it bothers us because we started judging. We shouldn’t judge when people give what seems like ridiculous reasons for not being able to be involved in “whatever.” Yeah, some people are lazy. Yeah, in the right relationship, some people need challenged to put on big boy pants. But we all recharge and get drained differently, and we all have our own limits. So give mercy because you’ll need it soon enough. When we hear “no” – we should never assume we understand the other person’s situation.

On Saying “No”
When we are saying “no” to someone, we must avoid the temptation to place our hearer in the position of our judge. I think we do this a lot – let me explain.

For example, when I say to you, “I can’t be involved in your Save The Whales campaign because I have to go grocery shopping.” This solution makes you think I’m a jerk because I don’t care about the thing you care about. When I start to defend myself it kinda pushes you to make a judgement call about whether or not my commitment is unreasonable according to YOUR priorities. But you’re not the one saying yes or no. It’s me. And you have no idea how stressed its been in my house the past week and how much money we’ve been wasting by eating out for the past four days (and can’t afford it) and how much additional stress it will put on me to get home late tonight for the 27th day in a row – you’re just not in the seat to determine how I play out my priorities. So a “No, I can’t, I have other plans. Sorry” would be sufficient. We shouldn’t put ourselves on a judgement seat.

But we shouldn’t be silent either. That just communicates rudeness. We sometimes choose silence when we are asked to do something because we don’t want to deal with explaining ourselves, being judged, or possible confrontation that follows.… But we are usually only put in that place of judgment when we say “No, because…” And place ourselves in the judgment seat. If you are remaining silent to a request of your time, talent, or treasure because you want to avoid a problem or confrontation, chances are you are probably creating conflict. For example, some people ignore RSVPs with the motivation to avoid saying no, but that often just leads to the host having to follow through and contact them directly to confirm!

Just say no – it is a complete sentence.

(I make some huge generalizations here – and there are a million situations where “No” is absolutely not sufficient. (If your boss asks you to work on something, simply a “No” is definitely not recommended!). I imagine these thoughts are appropriate for most social situations, though. These comments are meant to be encouragement to those feeling rejected by “No’s,” and tips that I’ve learned for those who fret over saying it. If you never feel like you’re in one of those positions, this post probably doesn’t apply to your personality – but thanks for reading!).


I once heard a story about a pastor of a little back-woods church who preached a message about how EVIL all war was. (This is not a political story – so stop thinking that way). The pastor went on and on condemning military soldiers for being involved with war and killing others, etc. etc. In his congregation was a United States Army Captain, who was visiting and just finished leading a battle. The congregation expected the Captain to stand up and “correct” the pastor. In fact, the pastor expected the captain to stand up and correct him. But the captain never did. He remained sitting quietly in the church. Never objected.

After the service, the pastor greeted the Captain and asked, “I know how strongly you disagreed with what I preached today. I’m wondering why you didn’t stand up and say something?” The captain replied, “Because six years ago, when my wife was dying of cancer in the middle of the night, you came over and stayed bedside all night long.”

I just experienced a similar situation that proved the lesson from this story. How I wish I could share it with you! (I would be betraying confidence).

I have always believed it, and acted on it. But now I’ve seen it.

Some people will never trust or respect us until they know how much we care.

They’re never going to know how much we care until we show them. And prove it.

That takes time.


This post is comprised of thoughts I’ve had regarding trust over the past several months (sort of like a journal solely on this subject). If I was able, I would share the situations behind each of these thoughts to help you understand the inspiration of the thought, but because the events were shared with me in confidence, I cannot — so there! So, you just get to hear my after-thoughts on trust — please try to apply them to your own life’s relationships and I believe they will help you in your relationships. There are many aspects of trust. I’m writing these off of some notes, but as I detail these paragraphs I’m nearly in awe at how much trust is at the core of humans. Or maybe its just me — maybe trust is at my core. But I think its everyone — I think trust might be the backbone of all relationships.

Earned Trust
Trust is earned. We all know that — but I think its easily forgotten. When kids critically say, “My parents don’t trust me” I want to smack them — because when I ask the follow up question, “Should your parents trust you?” or “If you were your parents, would you trust yourself?” the answer is always, “No.” This isn’t just a parent-child thing — this works in any relationship. If someone doesn’t trust you, there is probably a reason! In my example, the child needs to give the parents reasons to trust him.

Free Trust
I think we all have an element of “free trust.” I think I made this word up, so let me define it myself: Free trust is the trust that is given without any prior experience. It’s free, not earned. If I buy a stick of gum with a $10 bill, I trust that the candy vendor will give me my change so I hand him my $10 without reservation. That’s free trust. I think free trust is based on your position. I will give you free trust because of your position (i.e. shop clerk or friend, parent or child, pastor or counselor, mentor or protoge’, boss or employee).

Lost Trust
One crazy thing about trust is that it only takes a single action to wipe away all trust. That really baffles me, honestly. Trust is so valuable and integrated into every interpersonal relationship — and one silly decision can wreck a life’s relationships because trust is lost.

Stupid Trusters
There is an appropriate blend of “earned” and “free” trust. You earn my trust because of past experiences. I give you free trust because of your position. These things occur simultaneously — and there must be a blend. Dysfunctional relationships will begin when there is an imbalance between these two trusts. For example, imagine an underage child who repeatedly attempts suicide and gets caught with cigs, beer, and marijuana on multiple occasions. After each incident the parents decide that since the son said, “I’ll change” they should simply give him the free trust and move on, after all – he does hold the position of “son.” That’s stupid. Those parents need to start using some more earned trust and kick the child’s butt. He needs sent to a boarding school or something before he actually succeeds in killing himself. Those parents need to not trust their son because they love him. But evidently they’re stupid, so they trust unconditionally.

Trust Is Awesome
When you’re able to trust other people it just rocks. I’ll never forget my high school band director Terry Fisher. He had this incredible ability to just trust people at the very first moment he met them. He would then continue to trust and respect you until you gave him a reason to not be trusted. But until you gave him a reason to not trust you, he would bend over backwards to help you succeed. I have never had a teacher who cared about me more than Mr. Fisher. I made the comment to him once, “Mr. Fisher, you actually trust people.” He responded, “I have to. I can’t get anything done if I don’t trust other people. Besides – that’s no way to live. You’ve gotta trust people.”

I don’t think Mr. Fisher ever knew how much he taught me that day. It revolutionized the way I looked at relationships. When I actually trusted people, the world started ticking better. Trust is relying on the humanity of another individual. Today I have several people that I whole-heartedly trust with different positions — protoge’s, friends, family, pastors, etc.

The more I trust these people, the more they trust me. And that is a beautiful thing. That’s the backbone of relationships.