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  • Reverend James Squire

A Most Important Word

Updated: Feb 9, 2021



My dog Sadie, even though she is a canine, causes me to think about human nature. She loves food and people in that order. It’s a basic truth for Labradors. There is one short word that gets her attention and causes her to run at warp speed to me. I can say in a loud voice, “Sadie, come here! Sadie, let’s go!” and any other biddings. They get no response. However, I can say, “Eat!” in a quiet voice that you could barely hear and woe be the person who is between she and me.

I asked myself If there was a short word that gets my attention with that kind of power? There is. It is the word, "no". Churchill said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” More recently Steve Jobs underscored this thought that “innovation is saying "no" to a 1000 things.

“No” is hard for me and many others to say. "No" probably came into human existence when the first parents had a two-year old. They had to hear that word over and over from their child as the child attempted to separate from them and become their own person. “

It is much less stressful to say “yes” than it is to say “no”. We will do anything to avoid the emotions of guilt, rejection, and vulnerability. Those feelings can be potentially generated quickly by “no” statements. Likewise, it is human nature to want to have a sense of belonging and saying “no” to someone can open the door for us to feel that we may be excluded from being part of someone's life.

We have difficulty saying “no” to our children and forget at times that “to NO you is to love you.” As we attempt to set boundaries not only for children but also for colleagues and friends who have a request of us that we would rather not fulfill, we need to indicate, “Thank you, but no I can’t”.

“No” has received a lot of press in the legal world in the realm of sexual harassment and rape. “No" has now gotten some gravitas as a word that means “stop right now”. It is the key word in defining consensual and non-consensual sexual relationships. “No means no. It doesn’t mean maybe.”

Our time is our most valuable possession. We have a limited amount so we must use it wisely with moments that promote growth in ourselves and in others. “No” to one thing could be a precondition for doing something more valuable. “No” is an absolute. There is nothing ambiguous about it in a world moving more toward everything being relative. “No” doesn’t permit “I am not sure.” to enter the room with us.

Of course, there is a case for “yes”. I think that is an easier one to make!

By the way, Sadie does understand “no”, but “yes” not so much!


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