Like the movie ‘Yes Man’, on the spiritual path we talk a lot about saying ‘Yes!’ So, today, I thought I would talk about saying ‘No!’
When I was young, I had a very good friend who I worked with. She was a slight bit younger, but in certain ways wiser. Often, we talked about our boyfriends, and one day, she looked at me with the type of look that you have when suddenly you understand something you couldn’t figure out before. It was a combination of surprise and conviction. She practically shouted, “Now I know what your problem is with your boyfriend! You don’t know how to say NO!” “Okay girl, I am going to teach you, and we are going to practice!” So, that was how my education of ‘No’ began. For days on our breaks and lunches, she had me repeat the word No in many different ways with different intonations and different inflections. She also had me vary the way I said it. Like, “I don’t think so!”, or “Absolutely not!” While at first it just started out as silly to me, I quickly began to see how ‘No’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary – I was a ‘yes’ person, and sometimes I said yes when I did not want to. Using my new ‘No’ capabilities allowed me to quickly be able to balance my world in a way that I never before had been able to do. And guess what happened?? A large amount of stress left my life. I stopped being so resentful. My boyfriend and I broke up, but it was obviously for the best.
Many of us have difficulty saying no. I remember being so judgmental of people who said yes when they did not want to, not really realizing that I was that person. When I was a teenager, I visited a childhood friend on a trip back to my hometown. As we were catching up on our lives, she told me about how she had recently overdosed at a concert. I sat there in shock, not knowing what to say. I did not do drugs. I mostly thought that everyone who did do them, thought it was cool. So, finally, I said, ‘cool’, not really meaning it. My friend looked at me and said, ‘Not really!’ I asked her why was she doing drugs if she did not want to. She told me that all of her friends did drugs and they had been friends their entire childhood and she did not have any other friends. In fact, one of them had become a drug dealer! She explained how she believed that she had to do drugs in order to stay friends with them. From her expressions and tone of voice, I understood that she would change nothing. I realized living so far away, I could not help her in any way and just felt sad and powerless.
I also remember once having a new young employee at one of my jobs. Within his first two weeks he called in a told me that he could not come to work because a friend of his was having a hard time with her family. When he came to work the next day I sat down and had a talk with him. He told me how his friend was was having trouble with her family and had asked him to talk to her the day before. I explained to him how when you have a job, barring real emergency, it has to be your first priority, because it pays for your food and your rent and without those things handled, you really cannot help anyone. Because he was young, I really wanted to give him a chance. I made it clear that if he was to keep his job, he simply would have to show up for work! He asked to think about it and came back to me later that day and told me he was quitting. He explained that he just could not and would not say no to his friends. He said that if any of his friends ever needed him, he would always put them before his job. I never knew what became of him, but I am assuming that he did one day learn to say no, to take care of himself to be able to help others.
Learning to say ‘No’ can be a powerful tool in your transformation. Saying ‘No’ to habits that are bad for you, friends that ask too much of you, your own negative thoughts about yourself, is something all of us will have to learn in order to surrender to who we really are.
Try it. Practice!
I love you!