You scheduled your Friday night to remain empty because you need to relax and spend time by yourself after a hectic week. Of course, as soon as you get home and drop to the couch, your friend texts to ask what you’re up to. If you say “nothing,” then she’s likely to ask you to do something, even if “nothing” is all you want to do. So, you feel like you have to make up an excuse as to why you aren’t available that evening. You shouldn’t feel the need to justify saying “no” to something or someone. Nor should you feel the need to use certain words to express why you do or do not want to do something. Expressing your honest desire shouldn’t make you feel guilty nor should you feel the need to apologize.
Explaining that you need time for yourself is something that is really difficult when the other person just hears that you’re not busy. You only have so much time, and people will take it from you as long as you give it to them. If your friend asks you to go to the mall, you don’t have to lie and say, “I have plans” or “I don’t have any spending money right now” or even “My mom said no” if it’s not true. You can simply say, “I don’t want to go” or “I’ve decided not to go.” You can say, “I won’t,” but in nicer words. You don’t have to refuse rudely, but you do have to stand up for what you want and need as a person. You also don’t have to apologize for not wanting to do something. If you don’t, you don’t; it’s as simple as that. Remember: you’re saying no to the request, not to the person.
If it’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable or something you know you shouldn’t be doing, like going to a party where people will be drinking or hanging out at your friend’s house when her parents are away for the weekend, you don’t have to do it. Many people will try to tell you that it’s part of the experience of being a teenager. It’s a tradition to throw this party after graduation. Or even that this may be your only chance to do something this wild. It’s really not worth it. You may miss out on some funny things that happened, but you also miss out on the bad parts—the risks of being caught, becoming injured or finding yourself in a situation you’ll regret.
On the other hand, there are definitely times when you really want to do something, but can’t actually do it, and that’s fine too! But clarifying when you can’t do something and when you won’t do something is very, very important. If you say you can’t, it invites the other person to try to figure out ways that you can. Your friend launches into, “Well, what if my mom comes with us?” or “What if you didn’t sleep over, but just came over for a little bit?” or any other “What if…?” to try to talk you into whatever it is you currently can’t do. You can encourage these plans, or dismiss them depending on the situation. But, if you aren’t able to do something, you have no reason to apologize to a circumstance that may be out of your control.
As a child of God, you have the freedom to express yourself without apology. You may have experienced tripping over a chair or running into a door and immediately apologized to the object. How much sense does that make? You didn’t do anything wrong, but you’ve been conditioned to take the blame for your clumsiness and awkward interactions that you end up apologizing to an inanimate object!
See who you are when no one else is around, and learn to love that girl!
In Christianity, we have been told to continually deny ourselves in order to serve and help others. Luke 9:23-24 says, “Then [Jesus] said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it’.” While this is true, and we have been called to serve in God’s name, it’s also important to consider the next verse: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Jesus tells us that we need to keep ourselves healthy too, in order to live this life of service to Him and others. We can’t give what we don’t have ourselves.
You have to love yourself in order to free yourself to love others. Loving yourself involves knowing yourself—who you are, what desires God placed on your heart and who God designed you to become. Loving yourself also means recognizing that you can only become who God designed you to be through the strength you have in Christ. This means taking time to pray, read your Bible and spend time with others who share your faith. To learn who you are, spend some time in solitude doing things you enjoy. Listen to music, write, read, go for a hike or a bike ride, shoot some hoops, bake cupcakes or whatever else you like to do. See who you are when no one else is around, and learn to love that girl!
When you can say “no” to things, people can trust that when you say “yes” to things it’s because you really want to do those things. If you always say “yes,” the people you love will worry about whether or not you’re saying “yes” because you want to or because you feel required. The ability to say “no” makes your “yes” more meaningful. Embracing your ability to say “no” is an unbelievably valuable skill. Saying “no,” and learning not to apologize for saying “no,” will not only benefit you, it’ll also benefit those around you. Forming relationships out of desire rather than obligation will make those friendships more significant.