NO is a Beautiful Word

NO!  NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! The universal “sign” that all is not going well…. The “sign” that we have been rejected, spurned, denied, blocked, and all the other degrading words we can think about in relationships unless we look at the word “No” in a different light. What if “No” were to mean honesty in a relationship? What if “No” were to mean that we were presenting our most vulnerable person to the other with whom we desire intimacy? What if “No” were to mean that the other is presenting to me their most vulnerable intimacy? Wow. Honesty in a relationship. Truth. Knowing that I can trust you to speak to me from the depth of who you really are – not the fake pacifist, fixer, co-dependent, or controller.

Matthew 21:28-32 tells the story about a man who has two sons. He goes to the first son and asks him to work in the vineyard. The son says “sure” but does not really want to go. Ultimately, he does not go. The man asks his second son to work in the vineyard and that son is honest: “NO” he says. Then, he thinks about it and changes his mind and goes to work in the vineyard. Jesus asks the disciples, “who did the will of the Father?” “The second,” the disciples all say. “Yes!” is the answer. However, the reason that the second son did the will of the father is not because he worked, it is because he was honest. He took the time to be real. He said “No”. Then, as an adult, he thought about his decision and changed his mind. He took responsibility for his actions.

Honesty. We crave it. We need it. We want it. And we are afraid to truly participate in it because honesty is much too vulnerable. What if I am honest and am crushed? Demolished? Demonized? What if I share my truth and am mocked? How will I survive?

First, I must be honest with myself. I must allow me to be me. I must accept that I am unique and treasure that uniqueness. Second, I must allow others to be themselves. I must accept that they are unique and learn to treasure that uniqueness. I must recognize that what bothers me about someone else is really me being bothered by me. Their “splinter” is really my “log” (Matt. 7:1-3). I need to give grace to the faults of those around me, and to myself as well!

When I am able to step back and see that we are all relying upon one another, then I am going to be able to see that honesty in relationships means that those relationships are real. “Yes” means I love you and “No” equally means I love you. Neither one is any more or less important in relationships. Both communicate honesty and real intimacy. Greeting the “Yes” and the “No” with gratitude becomes a huge leap in relational intimacy maturity, building trust. When we respond with equal gratitude for the honest response, we will see that our relationships become more honest and real. Reliable. The very thing that we all desire. Intimacy.

So, I challenge you – be honest with your “yes” and your “no”. Be intimate in the most vulnerable way. Choose to open up the person you are to the person next to you in a manner that will allow you to learn the sweetness of trust. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”


Lilla Marie is a therapist in our Bothell, Washington clinic. She describes her style as developmental, using cognitive/behavioral, gestalt, and various other techniques. She likes to evaluate learning styles and tailor the therapeutic process to each individual. Because Lilla believes that culture impacts every aspect of how we view the world, as well as how we function in relationships, she pays special attention to the cultural values in family-of-origin stories. Lilla has a unique take on homeschooling which allows her to bring fresh insight into families who are transitioning into the public school system.