Learning to Say No

One of the first words that a child learns is “no”.  A small toddler knows what it means and it is an early entry in their verbal vocabulary as they wobble around repeating, “No, no, no” everywhere they go.  Even a dog will quickly learn the word when you are training him.  Yet while it is one of the earliest concepts that humans acquire, and extraordinarily simple to understand, many people never grasp the word or learn to act on it.

It is imperative that we get the whole idea of “NO!” drilled into our heads, learn to deny selfish desires and feelings, and do the right things in life. If you don’t get this, you will live a life that is nothing but a series of disasters that leave a wake of destruction in your path.

Parents must instill their children that they cannot act on every desire and need to teach them that the ability to delay gratification. Both are essential skills to acquire if you are going to live as a successful person. While this is especially important in many areas of life, it is critical when it comes to the area of sex.

I frequently hear from teens and young adults who are dating and they say they want to “do things right” but that they are struggling with staying pure and keeping the boundaries in their relationships.  (Part of the problem is that they are waiting way too long to marry. Read my post on Young Marriage.

One seventeen year old wrote in to ask for advice stating that she and her boyfriend, both Christians, were trying everything they could “not to have sex”.  They were trying to stay in public places and also made “everything that a swimming suit covers” off limits for touching. Yet they still slipped up and were unable to maintain the boundaries. They were afraid that it would end up leading to “sex” (and by that they meant intercourse) and she wanted to know what to do. By the way, everything they had already done is considered sex! If you are kissing, touching, feeling, or grabbing anything that a swimming suit covers, that’s sex! Actual intercourse or penetration is not the definition.

A long time ago, I was a teenager and I understand it’s difficult when you really love someone—especially when the hormones are racing. But the more important thing, and that which they were overlooking, is that neither of them had learned to say no! I get it, it’s hard to say no to what you want. Feelings can be very strong and hormones can be very persuasive, but if you don’t learn it early on, when will you learn it?  What makes you think if you can’t say no to what’s wrong and do what’s right now, that you’ll ever be able to do it later?

So let’s say that this young couple keeps going on the path they are on. They keep playing touchy-feely because it’s exciting and just too hard to say no and deny their passions and feelings. Then a couple of years down the road they get married only to find out that there are days that marriage can be pretty tough. Perhaps the wife is a little chubbier since the birth of the baby, temptation is all around and suddenly on a bad day after an argument, he sees that cute little hoochie- mama in the office. She’s got a nicer body, bigger boobs, a prettier face…whatever. Let’s face it, there is always going to be someone better looking. Now is he going to say no?

Or maybe she meets up with a dad at her kid’s soccer games and sits on the bleachers with him. She discovers that he makes her heart race a little and there is some attraction there when he smiles at her. What happens when he wants to hold her hand and sympathize with her because her husband is always working and never around? Will she say no now?

People, there is nothing magical that happens just because you slip a ring on your finger. No magic pixy dust is sprinkled over you as part of your wedding vows. Fidelity happens by choice, not by accident and if you never learn to say no, trust me…you are an accident waiting to happen. A some point everyone must choose to say no to selfish desires, to the wrong things, to temptation, and to their feelings.

Why do you think so many people are cheating on their mates right now? They’ve practiced it. Men and women in their thirties and forties on their lunch breaks at work grabbing and groping in a secret place in the office, the back seat of a car or meeting up at a motel. And I’m not talking about heathens, I’m talking about Christians that even though they are trying to serve God, even though they know they shouldn’t be doing this, they end up in an adulterous affair and in divorce because they never learned to say no.

Do you know how many hundreds if not thousands of preachers will throw it all away this year by crawling into some woman’s pants in their church, committing adultery and destroying the ministry they have spent years preparing for and building? Why? Because when they were young they never learned to say no. Do you want your life to stink and end up struggling with commitments for the next sixty years all because you haven’t learned it?

So if don’t want to learn it now, learn it early, when are you going to? When will you start doing life right? Many parents excuse their kids’ behavior saying, “Oh, they can’t help it!  They’re young and in love. It’s too hard to say no.”  Hey, Mom and Dad, what happens when they are 25 and married and come to you crying because their spouse committed adultery? We wonder why all these things happen?  I’ll tell you why, it’s because people never learn to say no to things that are wrong.

As people of faith we must do what is right, what God asks us to do, no matter what it costs us, who it separates us from, or who it associates us with. Yeah, it isn’t easy, doesn’t usually feel so great and it is painful and hard to walk away from things we want so badly. But the payoff is so much better in the end and the gain far outweighs the pain.  If you can’t keep your hands off each other, if you can’t do the right thing, then you need to end it and walk away.

By learning ”No!”, you will build a life you can be proud of 75 years from now, or you can go through hell and not learn it until your second or third marriage after years of grief.  Sadly, many people who are in their fifties and sixties still haven’t learned it. They’re living in the same rat hole they started all those years ago because they never got it. Instead of living according to the standards of God, denying themselves and shutting down their desires and feelings, they allow their passions and wants to run amuck and their lives stink and are difficult because of it.

When will you learn it? Do life right. Say “no” to what’s wrong and “yes” to what’s right…regardless of how you feel.

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10 Responses to “Learning to Say No”

  1. Ivan says:

    Thank you, mr. Gungor! God bless you! Your ideas and teaching are really life-giving!

  2. suzan says:

    I love your articles. Im a 22 year old girl and i now see we all go through the same stuff. im kenyan i used to think americans and europeans have it easier..silly! i know, but thats what weve been brought up to believe..everthing in the western culture is admirable and good..

    I am struggling alot with sexual sin. Ijustify my self with the ..i will marry my boyfriend later so its not thattt bad!
    Now im 3 boyfriends down and two abortions down… Its is clearly not working but heres the thing i dont know what to do anymore. since everyone here in Kenya is preaching not to have sex before marriage and me iv already crossed that line..no ones telling me what to do after im not a virgin anymore they tell us you will have the worst marriages if you have sex before marriage, you will never trust your man. you will probably cheat on him..so basically they have told me my fate is sealed.so i do what i do best. Keep my boyfriend happy.and see what comes of this!

    • Bex says:

      Suzan – many have done it wrong in the past. My husband and I both had sex with others before dating each other and it wasnt long into our relationship before we started sleeping together. But after I became a Christian and he became serious about his faith we chose to start doing things right – we stopped having sex and quickly started planning a wedding!
      I still have a hard time connecting sex with love because of my past but we are living life right now and praying that God will restore what was lost.
      Weve all made mistakes, whats great about the power of Jesus and His blood spilt for us, is that we can turn away from our sins and our past, turn to God, be forgiven and be restored.

  3. Bex says:

    We live in a time where we can have what we want, any time of day, how we want it. There is no denying of oneself these days.
    Unfortauntly when I was growing up I pretty much got what I wanted – I wouldnt exactly say I was spoiled by any means, but (I believe because) my parents were divorced whenever I was with my dad he didnt know how to handle a daughter and when we’d fight he’d buy me a gift as a peace offering. (Maybe that explains my love language being gifts?). And I knew if I “kicked and screamed” long enough Id get what I wanted.
    Now at the age of 23 and newly married and a Christian, I need to grow up and learn how to deny myself and not demand my own way in marriage. Its really hard and I wish that it was something my parents had taught me as a child and I pray that I can pass on the value of dying to self daily to my future children.

  4. Nikki says:

    As a new parent of a 1 year old I feel like I am heavy handed with the No’s! It’s the mom-guilt thing :) but it is encouraging to know that in the long run I am enabling my son to be able to say no (not just to me and his dad!) and hopefully it will be an invaluable tool for him throughout life. Thanks for your insight!

  5. megan says:

    Good post. My only concern is that you didn’t center it around the gospel as the motivation for action. We say NO because Christ denied himself for us. I would hate folks to get pointed to mustering it up in the flesh. That NEVER WORKS, especially in this situation. You have the action items, but we need the gospel to do this, as it is only in the Spirit responding to God’s great grace! I get so easily caught up in obeying in the flesh and didn’t understand how loving Jesus causes me to turn to him during the suffering and saying no. What are we saying YES to? A fuller life in Christ and the blessings and promises that come with obedience.

  6. Paida says:

    Hi Susan,
    No one has the power to ‘seal your fate’. God has the final say. If you give to Jesus all of you, mistakes, sins, weaknesses and all, he will resurrect you into a new life you never thought possible. Like you, I thought I had to try and please past boyfriends by having sex and holding on to a relationship because I was not a virgin anymore. That didn’t work. I’m married now but didn’t do it God’s way, eventually my husband had an affair. We’ve both learned the hard way and are now seeking a new foundation in God for our marriage. Marriage is so rewarding with God at the centre of it – it’s not too late to turn around and choose to do things God’s way! If you would like true joy and be happily married – Jesus can turn things around for you. Say no to sex before marriage and learn to live life the way God wants you to and he will lead you to a great marriage.

  7. L says:

    Excellent. Well said. I will be sharing this article with my daughter and anyone else that I feel will benefit from it.

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