Week 3: Saying “No”

Somewhere along the line, I heard the phrase “turn the other cheek” and assumed it meant a good Christian is a doormat. Any opportunity, any slight, or any uncomfortable situation, I thought I was just supposed to be nice.

In reality, I was twisting the meaning of the verse to justify my terror of confrontation.

My interpretation has proved itself to be problematic daily. I have many opportunities to stand my ground, but I usually end up shrinking into the background waiting for it to pass, swallowing my frustration and anger. I tell myself, It isn’t a big deal. Just let it go.

Enter my twenties, during which I discovered that dancing is super fun.

I need to start by saying that I am not a good dancer, but I am an enthusiastic dancer.

It is an irrefutable fact that if you are a woman dancing alone possessing the proportions of… uhh… a pear… there are circumstances in which some random dude will come up behind you and… uhh… start dancing with you in a manner reminiscent of your most awkward high school prom.

The easiest way out of this situation is to look at your friend with panic and mouth “Help.”

One could also just say “no,” but so far you have not exchanged a single word with this dude.

What do you do?

I have developed a technique of moving around the dance floor like a jackrabbit. One minute I spot a dude leering at me, the next I’m in the opposite corner, hiding in plain sight among a sea of white girls dancing just as badly.

The same thing happens if a guy asks for my number and I don’t want to give it to him. I’m not a good enough liar to pull off the “fake number” move. I have the right to say no. Why don’t I?

For me, it’s partially a lack of practice, and partially my bone deep terror of conflict. I’m so surprised and so paranoid that I just give the dude my number.

But it’s also this image of a good Christian girl that I haven’t fully been able to let go of. At some point, I decided that a good Christian girl doesn’t say “no,” unless someone is trying to sex with her, because her purity is ultimate. She is submissive (aka a doormat), demure, and agreeable. For some reason, maintaining that image with strangers is paramount.

Why do I want to be her when there are countless opposing models in the Bible? Why wouldn’t I channel Ruth, who defied cultural expectations and committed to her widowed mother-in-law, went and worked in a field at great personal risk, who was both faithful and fierce? What about Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who refused to participate in a woman’s traditional work, instead sitting at the feet of Jesus, a place reserved for male disciples? And what about Jesus, who consistently took women out of their culturally relegated place and gave them dignity and honor, who talked to them like they were people, who revealed himself as Messiah, then as resurrected Lord to women, who sent women out to boldly proclaim his love? 

When I am scared of saying no, I am more concerned about protecting my image than of proclaiming the Gospel through my life. Whether it is a ministry opportunity or on the dance floor, Christ has given me a spirit that is not a slave to fear, but one of sonship-ultimate dignity and belonging (Romans 8:15).