No sea malita—don’t be bad. Big brown eyes. A whining tone. Don’t tell me “no.”
I can’t say how many times I’ve heard those words. No, I can’t buy candy from you (I want to, but how do I know it is you it will help, and not some guy who’s beating you up?) I’m not being bad when I say no.
How many times have I wanted to hear the word yes when someone says no?
How many times have I said yes, when I needed to say no? Sure—I can’t tell you that I can’t talk now, that’s unloving. Sure—I can’t tell you I can’t work an extra hour, you really have no solutions. Sure…but I don’t want to, I’m doing it because I have to. Sure, but it’s not really me choosing to love you.
People say that the first word children learn is “no.” (Or “mine” but we’re not dealing with that word today.) And yet, it’s somehow the word we least know how to use, or accept.
I was eighteen when boundaries in close friendships formed. A dear, dear friend of mine told me I could ask—but only if she could tell me no. No, I can’t read your writing right now, I’ll read it later. No, I can’t come pray. No, you can’t keep saying things like that. No, you can’t do that.
No. No. No.
But then she said yes. Yes, let’s eat breakfast, and when we ate breakfast we both wanted to be there.
Yes, let me hear what you wrote.
Yes, I can pray for you, what for?
Yes, you can text me when you need something.
No… because I want to give you something real.
No—but I still care. No—I think you’re capable and kind enough to respect my boundaries. No— I don’t like hugs; don’t hug me all the time, but when I hug you, it will be a real one.
I love you too much to give you what I can’t.