Don’t tell me, “No.”

Don’t tell me, “No.”

Don’t tell me, “No.”

How about you?  What happens when you’re told, “No”?

It’s such an interesting word.  We all like to say, “No” – and many times, we should.  But on many (most?) occasions, we don’t like to hear it.

  • “No, you can’t have that cookie before dinner.”
  • “No, your application to the college of your choice wasn’t accepted.”
  • “No, you can’t have any more screen time.”
  • “No, you won’t be going home today; your flight’s been cancelled.”
  • “No, the chemo didn’t work.”
  • “No, the surgery wasn’t successful; there was nothing more we could do.”
  • “No, your candidate didn’t win.”
  • “No, we’re not going to pay for your wedding.”

“No” is a boundary; it’s a roadblock on the path I (you) really wanted to travel.

And “no” always comes from a source – of authority.  Some one or some thing put the roadblock in my (your) way.

Maybe the authority is a parent. a teacher, a boss, or a selection committee.  Maybe the source is a finite system – like biology, physics, or neurology.  Maybe “no” comes from a manmade system – like education, entertainment, competitive sports, or government. Maybe the authority is God – and His design for creation.

Is it too big of a leap to recognize that:  “Don’t tell me, ‘No.’ – is the same message as: “Don’t tell me I’m not in control.”?

If I’m not in control, who is?  And do they belong in authority?  Who says they do? Who says they don’t?  How do I know?

If I decide the person – or system – in authority doesn’t belong, what do I decide to do about the “no”?  Do I trust myself and the “yes” I want more than I trust the authority and the line they’re drawing in the sand?

Do I trust –

  • my desire for a cookie more than your desire for me to wait and eat dinner?
  • my preferences more than the admission process – and more than other options?
  • my enjoyment of screen time more than __________?
  • my real pain and disappointment more than the maturing that happens when I trust others to help me “return to joy” from every unpleasant emotion?
  • my need for healing more than the One who is with me – and weeps with me – in the waiting?
  • my desire for my candidate more than the election process?
  • my desires more than your boundaries?

As I wrestle with these ideas, several words keep showing up on my screen:

  • trust
  • control
  • desires
  • boundaries

These four threads – woven together – become the fabric of our lives.  These threads weave the sails on our ships, become the color and pattern of our flags, become the substance of our bridal gowns, our every day clothing, our bed sheets, and our graves clothes.  

Who are we going to trust?  more than ourselves?

Who gets to be in control?  even when I’d rather be?

Who gets to help me know and trust my true identity – and my real boundaries…so I can trust my true desires?

Who will teach me that “no” is one of the most precious words in the language of love?

The last two questions introduced two new words into this idea wrestling match:

  • help
  • teach

I’m going to need help to do one thing or another:

  • I’m either going to need help overcoming a boundary that was never intended to stand in my way, or
  • I’m going to need help recovering from injuries I’ve incurred trying to break through the boundaries that were always meant to protect me from harm.
  • One other real possibility – I may need help recovering from injuries I’ve incurred because someone else broke through boundaries that were meant to protect me from harm.

This kind of help is sometimes called:

  • healing
  • forgiveness
  • redemption
  • restoration

Help always comes from a source; this source is often called a teacher.  A teacher holds a position of authority; uh-oh.

Who will we choose to be our teacher?  What if we’re stubborn about trusting anyone else in control?  What if we’ve been hurt by immature or bad authority?  What if we’ve been hurt by our own immature habit of busting through boundaries that are intended for our good?

These important questions lead me to the distinguishing difference between a great teacher and the best teacher.

A great teacher has:

  • knowledge of the facts and the discipline,
  • wisdom about the language and the relationships of the subject, and
  • a wealth of experience in the arena or on the road we must travel.

The best teacher has all of this and more.

The best teacher gives us a perfect score card on the first day of school. He tells us what is true about ourselves and others- even if it’s not yet what is evident about us, or them.  The best teacher invites us to follow Him in the story of our lives, instead of keeping score as if life is a game.

The best teacher knows we’re going to struggle, get hurt, and make mistakes.  He knows our struggles, hurts, and mistakes are going to tempt us to feel ashamed and afraid; ashamed and afraid, He knows we’ll hide – from the help that can heal us.  Shame is never His response to our struggles or our pain.

Shame will never create a relationship of trust.

The best teacher knows needing a good average gets in the way of learning that help is something we all need – and we won’t ever ask for help from anyone we don’t trust.

The best teacher knows needing a good average also gets in the way of our learning to “love one another”  because numbers become more important than relationships.  He knows even the best average won’t provide the fulfillment we are created for.

The best teacher knows our struggles, mistakes, shame, and fear are going to hurt — us and those we love.  He knows we’re going to need more than great instruction; we’re going to need healing, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.

 

Who are we going to trust?  more than ourselves?

Who gets to be in control?  even when I’d rather be?

Who gets to help me know and trust my true identity- and my real boundaries…so I can trust my true desires?

Who will teach me that “no” is one of the most precious words in the language of love?

It’s the oldest plot line in history, and it’s a great story.

What do these ideas have to do with parenting?  Parents are our first teachers.  When we parent in a community of grace, we get to remind each other to trust God and others to help us – and to heal us. (trueface.org)

As a parent I have the privilege of:

  • reminding my children what is true about them, even if it’s not yet evident,
  • earning their trust so they will let me help them when they struggle – and when they’re hurt,
  • and modeling humility — asking God and others for help, too – when I struggle and when I get hurt.

What do these ideas have to do with education?  A young person’s experiences in formal education will build and reinforce the connections, and therefore the learned responses, in his/her brain to go in profoundly different directions when he/she struggles or gets hurt:

  • I will learn to run towards a safe source, recognizing I need help and healing.
  • I will learn to hide- in fear of shame, ridicule, or embarrassment.
  • Without safe experiences that teach me to trust the help and healing that comes from grace, I will learn to fear struggle and pain.  I will believe less than what is true about God and get stuck in fear, and I will believe less than what is true about me and get stuck in struggle.

Documenting Grace in Education is happening now.  We are beginning to tell the real stories of the effects of trusting grace in students’ lives, school work, and relationships; we are working with a team of experts to refine a new covenant list of “best practices” that we believe offer the greatest hope in education.  Read more about our work in these blog posts:

Documenting Grace in Education

Trusting Grace in Education

What if school – and life – could be different?

The GOOD STUFF page on this website offers several options for marinating in the miracle working power of grace.  Contact us if you’d like to learn more or get involved.  We’re excited to watch our community of grace grow as we continue to ask God and others to help us.