The Power of “No!”

A large part of my recovery process involves using the word “no.” Indeed, saying “yes” gotten me into more trouble and disease than standing in my own okay-ness with stating it simply, but firmly.

My eating disorder experiences were driven by an insatiable need for perfection, approval and to be pleasing at all cost. So, “no” became a dirty little word. After all, a girl, filled with sugar and spice, should be completely fulfilled with making other people happy.



No matter how much I tried to push the truth down, it would eventually surface, screaming how unhappy and disease-ridden I was. This occurred as I simultaneously tried to convince myself how it was normal and logical for others’ happiness to be at my expense, even risking my life, health and well-being.

“No means no.”

We hear that phrase a lot, especially when it comes to rape. And it certainly captures that truth. But this phrase extends to all areas, especially concerning how a female navigates herself through the world. And, let’s face it, more often than not, the world is not respectful of a female’s “no”- on much of anything.

Indeed, my own experience with my no answer has been challenged many times. And you know what is further troubling? The challenge has come from males. On occasions, when I’ve politely given my “no” to a male, on everything from a date, to a family decision, to my refusal of a piece of cake, unfortunately, I’ve had to resort to my next response:

“No is a complete sentence.”

By now, you would think the point would be made clear. But, no. To that more direct response, I have gotten rebuffed and further coerced; this is usually from the standpoint of the male telling me how much better his reason was for doing things his way. He’d try to sell his persuasive, charm as the reason why I should change my “silly no” to his right “yes.”

This perspective is disturbing as it call into question a female’s rightful stance to have a response which does not agree with the male who wants something else of her.

Years ago, a self- defense expert, teaching women how to protect themselves against attackers, stated two things which changed my life:

“When a man says no, it’s the end of the discussion. But when a woman says no, it starts the process of negotiation.”

“When a person does not accept your ‘no,’ they’re trying to control you.”


It’s, unfortunately, an insidious, subtle mindset out there which still exerts an argument that, somehow, a female’s no is not as real or as valid as that of a male’s. The mentality encourages the behavior, therefore, of that male’s right to challenge, dismiss, convince and coerce the female until she gives him the “yes” answer he desires.

It’s a violating spirit. It demeans and destroys. For, make no mistake about it, God has instructed us on the “no” question:

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:37

And, in case you didn’t notice, there was no gender distinction. A male’s no, a female’s no – both are valid – and to be heeded.

Life does not require we feel giddy when we’re told no. We’ve all had experiences in which “yes” would be so much more pleasing to our wants.

Nevertheless, someone’s “no,” however unwanted, needs to be respected. You don’t have to like it. But you do have to honor it.

And, if you can’t do that, it calls into question, therefore, a larger issue concerning your spiritual health. Is your “yes” answer from someone more important to you than their life, sense of dignity and well-being?

What is your honest answer to that question?