No Is Not A Four Letter Word

girl in field

She walked in the door, dropped her keys on the counter and then did nothing but stare off into space.  She’d made her decision but the inner battle to get there was grueling and lingered in her thoughts.

Somehow she’d believed that this bold step would have left her feeling empowered.  That she would have been proud of herself for standing firm and confident in her decision.

But she felt none of that.  

Instead, as she tried to distract herself with busywork and household chores, all she felt was guilt.

Because, honestly, her decision could have gone either way.

To almost anyone else, a positive answer would have made more sense.

On paper, this situation didn’t look all that much different than anything else she’d done in the past.

But she had chosen to listen to her gut.  

To trust the inborn instinct that waved the red flag of prior experience and practical reality.  

She had chosen what was best for her.

She had said “No”.

It still rang in her ears and left knots in her stomach.

  • It would inconvenience others. (never her goal)
  • It would be an unpopular answer. (ugh)
  • It would fly in the face of her natural instinct to please. (ouch!)
  • It felt too close to selfishness for her to rest comfortably in it. (bleh)

But still she had said it.  


Where was the relief?

Where was the “aaaaahhhhh” that was supposed to come when she settled on a direction?

Maybe it would come later, maybe it wouldn’t.

People would be disappointed, potentially upset. That was unavoidable and just the thought of that scenario killed her.

But she had said it any way.


There was no joy that came with the word.

No matter how busy she kept herself, she couldn’t escape the residual war between her ears. 

It still echoed like cymbals crashing in her head.

Such a small word with such a big effect.

I am she.

This was my very recent experience.

You’d think that something traumatic had happened in the way my body reacted to doing such a thing:

I felt sick.  I couldn’t sleep.  I fretted and stewed.

But still I said “No”.

Why was such a small word such a difficult thing to say? Why did pronouncing it seem to choke me?

Can you relate?

Why is it that so many of us (particularly women, it seems) feel as if “no” is a four letter word if it’s not used in regards to morality or safety?

Why can’t we say what was probably the first word we ever learned?

Is it because it was also the first word we were told NOT to say?  

We came to associate “no” with being rude, selfish and even just plain wrong.

We grew up believing that “no” is reserved only for discipline, dire circumstances, moral choices or protection of others.

We don’t recognize it as a word to also protect our own souls.

Sometimes it’s okay to say “no” just for us.

Sometimes that is reason enough.

And while the generous nurturer in us would rather say yes to any and every request from others, if we want to retain our sanity, our peace of mind, our balance and well-being,

“No” HAS to be part of our vocabulary.

 – Even if it will rarely be the most popular choice.

– Even if it may feel uncomfortable at first, grating against our desire to please and our ambition to put others’ needs ahead of our own.

– Even if our natural senses might cringe at the foreign use of this word.

Just because it doesn’t FEEL okay doesn’t mean it ISN’T okay.

NO is not a four-letter word.

(But, to be completely honest, it still tastes like a swear word in my mouth.)

Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is time for everything – “A time to embrace and a time to refrain…a time to be silent and a time to speak”.

A time to say “No”.

We can say it with grace.  We can say it with kindness.  And we can say it with confidence.


 – Is there an area of your life where you are saying yes when, for your own well-being, you need to be saying no?

– Are you over-committed?  Overwhelmed?  Over-booked?

– Is the habit of people-pleasing calling the shots on your decisions?

– Can you commit to saying no to something this week that will help to lessen your load/revive your heart/free up your schedule or resources?

– Can you protect your heart/soul/mind/body with one small word?

– Can you stop viewing “no” as a four-letter word?

I’m going to try.

If I could learn to say it at two, I should be able to say it again at 52. 

I hear it gets easier with use. 🙂


2 thoughts on “No Is Not A Four Letter Word

  1. Beautifuly said, my dear friend and SO very true are your words.
    I believe No is a complete sentence…
    So glad you are a part of my life. Your wisdom is so encouraging. Thank you!

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