She learnt to say “no” this week. From pursed little lips it sprang, clear as the blue of her eyes.
And again, practicing.
Her 17-month-old face was delighted rather than deceitful as she formed the new word, parroting her Mum, the weight of that one syllable yet to dawn. And later, my sweet daughter had already forgotten the obnoxious, if petite, declaration.
Phew! Well… not exactly.
Because I want my kids to know how to say no: firmly, with conviction and without apology. Does that sound very un-Christian? Are you confused because you thought all faithy people had smooshy-wooshy hearts for melting into yeses at the drop of a request?
Let me point to the fallacy nestled smugly within some circles – that God requires politeness over conviction.
No such proverb.
As a mother of two pre-schoolers, I’m the broken record that prompts for a “thank you” after every “no” and a “please” after every “yes”. Yet, at some point, I will sit down to unpick some of that painstaking work when I tell her that integrity is something to defend with resolute “no” (drop the thank you!).
Do we teach our daughters to say “no” enough?
Do we give our sons the power to guard against compromise?
I’m not sure – I’m new to this gig after all. But I remember hearing a motivational speaker talk about it in the context of youth resilience and it resonated.
“I think girls are too polite about protecting who they are,” she said.
“Give them permission and confidence to say no and feel good about it.”
When we’re being fed horrific statistics of child sexual abuse, drug use, criminal activity and exposure to pornography, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a parent. But this “no” lesson was empowering, and a reminder of how much God values us, how his image is woven into our own, making us his heirs, his sons and daughters. In short, we’re worth protecting.
Proverbs 4 is a chapter in the Bible under the heading “Get Wisdom at Any Cost”; 27 verses imploring the reader to seek wisdom unswervingly.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” the writer King Solomon advises in verse 23.
Guard is not a soft word. It’s a verb of resistance, of standing firm. It speaks of non-conformity and of using force to do so, if necessary.
Guard your heart, sweet daughter, because you are valuable beyond measure and God’s Word is there to protect you – your integrity, identity and eternity. What some see as a rule book is a love letter wooing you to heaven.
Which is why you will be taught to say “No” without polite padding.
Life’s not an experiment, honey, and you’re no guinea pig.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday November 9, 2015.