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When to Accept and not to Accept No for an Answer

Updated on April 28, 2012

Many of us have read or heard the Serenity prayer which goes as follows: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” When one reads this prayer, one can’t help but realize that there will be times when one has to take no for an answer, which is another way of accepting the things one cannot or even should not change.

However, this does not mean that you must live in a defeated position and let others with unreasonable ideas bully you from achieving what would be a noble purpose or what is your rightful destiny.Of course, it is important to have wisdom when it comes to knowing when to not take no for an answer and when to accept the things that can’t be changed.

Times when it is Best not to take No for an Answer

There will be times when one is the victim of an unfair judgment on the part of another or one’s true abilities have been underestimated or others want to take what it rightfully yours. Another words, one has been dealt a bad hand unjustly and it’s time to take a stand.

There are some people who have what is known as Illusory Superiority (aka: superiority bias, leniency error, sense of relative superiority or the primus inter pares effect) which means that they tend to overestimate their positive qualities and ignore many of their negative qualities in relations to others. These areas include cognitive ability, social standing, ethnicity, self esteem, mental health, and their way of seeing the world according to their own consensus, a great example of this would be the Nazis and their program for racial hygiene in which they systematically exterminated everyone, who did not fit their definition of a human being.

As a result of their distorted view of themselves and the world around them they tend to create rules for themselves and others that favor their ideas at the expense of others, thus limiting the potential of others. Therefore, taking no for an answer in this case can and would be highly unfair.

I remember when I saw the movie, Gattaca I couldn’t help but remember some of the things that Vincent said in regard to the society he grew up in. Because he was not genetically engineered he was limited as to what he could achieve, his desires or true abilities were never taken into account, because of his DNA. In one part of the movie he makes the following statement: “I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.” In another part of the movie Vincent and Anton, his brother have the following conversation:

Anton: You've gone as far as you can go. You come with me now!

Vincent: There is still a few million miles left to go..

Anton: It's over.

Vincent: Is it the only way you can succeed is to see me fail?

Anton: I'm telling you.....

Vincent: MY GOD, EVEN YOU ARE GOING TO TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN'T DO NOW!? In case you haven't noticed, I don't need any rescuing, but you did once. Well. You've got all the answers, how do you explain that?

In this scene you can see how Vincent voices his resistance against and unfair system that could not prove him inferior, and had no right to limit his choices.

Here you have an example from the movies of someone who didn’t take no for answer and manage to achieve his dreams, despite living in an unfair world, great movies often bring this theme to mind.

There are also examples from history when certain brave individuals did not take no for an answer and by doing so even achieved justice for their people. One individual that sticks out in my mind is Rosa Parks, aka the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. In a time when blacks where oppressed and not even allowed to sit where they wanted on a bus, Rosa Parks refused to stand up on the orders of the bus driver in order to yield her seat to a white passenger and was arrested on December 1, 1955. Rosa would not take no for answer, because taking no for answer would mean condoning injustice and she had enough of injustice and she preferred to be arrested than to surrender to even more unfairness. When Rosa asked the police why they felt they had the right to push them (blacks) around the policemen simply answered “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you are under arrest.” Amazing, blind obedience to laws they themselves did not understand, yet, it took a woman of great understanding to see past the prejudice of the time and not take no for an answer. That seat belonged to her and she was not going to surrender it because an unfair law demanded it.

Like Rosa Parks there are others who have made a difference, outstanding individuals who even died for their beliefs, such as Martin Luther King. He got killed for having a dream that would change the lives of many in the black community; he did not take no for answer. Men like Lincoln, Washington, and Thomas Jefferson are also examples of men that did not take no for an answer and brought about changes that have bettered the lives of many generations that came after them.

In the Bible there are also examples of individuals taking a stand for God and not taking no for an answer. One example would be Moses, who pleaded with Pharaoh to let his people go, and despite Pharaoh’s stubbornness he did not give up and under God’s mighty hand the Jews were finally set free. Like Moses there are many Biblical examples of brave individuals who knew that they were in the position to change things for the better and God gave them the wisdom to do so.

One should not have to take no for an answer when it goes against what is right or when others want to take what is rightfully yours. It is important to have good judgment in these matters and know what is truly right and to know when something is rightfully yours. However, there will be other times when one does and should take no for an answer.

Times when it is wisest to take no for an answer

There will be times when you may come across some very high walls and you must realize that the answer is a resounding no. One area would be in the area of abilities. We are not all endowed with the same abilities. God created a variety of people and this means each of us are endowed with different abilities. Unfortunately, one of the results of this is a lack of understanding of one’s talents, strength and limitations is a lot of frustration, especially when one wants to do something outside the realm of their true abilities.

There will be those moments when these realities clash with one’s dreams of making the team, the musical, the play, getting that promotion, or winning at something. That doesn’t mean you will always find yourself on a loosing streak, it just means you haven’t discovered what you are truly good at, so hang in there, you may surprise yourself.

On the other hand, it is important to accept, as well, as respect the decisions of those who are responsible for judging our abilities such as our bosses, teachers, coaches and others in our life that have to make an honest assessment of how our abilities can best serve an organization, team or any other endeavor that we set out to do or become a part of.This means no whining when you don’t get the part, promotion or do not get to play first string.

There are other times when it is not a matter of just ability but a matter of timing. It says in Ecclesiastes 9:11”I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Perhaps now is not the right time for that promotion, the lead in that play, or the fulfilling of a dream, therefore one must learn to conform and realize that the right time will come.

Conformity is not easy and it often means having to swallow that which you would prefer not to chew, but in order to live in peace one must learn how to conform. The dictionary defines conformity as follows:

1. Action in accord with prevailing social standards, attitudes, practices, etc.

2. Correspondence in form, nature, or character; agreement, congruity, or accordance.

3. Compliance or acquiescence; obedience.

As you can see the definition implies acceptance and has nothing to do with getting ones way and this also implies no instant gratification, as well. Conformity requires maturity and wisdom on our part. Sometimes God makes us take no for an answer, because it makes us more mature and gives us the ability to realistically deal with life’s ups and downs. It takes far more character to know how to deal with life’s harsh realities than it takes to simply win at everything.

Taking no for an answer in the area of relationships

There is nothing more heart breaking than when Lady Love deals you a bad hand. You are not alone, since no one can command the heart almost everyone has fallen for someone, who simply didn’t love them in return. This is an area where taking no for an answer is not just a matter of self-respect, but also a way of respecting their right to love or not love you. Love sometimes demands that we learn to let go for the sake of love, that your love is so complete that you will be happy for that person even if he or she didn’t choose you.

Learning to let go preserves one’s self dignity, if you are a woman it is very important to understand that if he doesn’t love you, he is not the least likely to change his mind. The more you insist the more he will resist, the only thing you can do if you want to at least be friends and not end up the object of his contempt is to let go. The only advice I can give here would be to find out from his family and friends what he considers unattractive, sometimes when a woman changes her looks or attitude, there is the possibility that he may see her in a different light. I'm not saying that the right hair, clothing or anything else you try on is the panacea you are searching for to make him change his mind, but sometimes a whole new look or attitude helps a man see something more and that may spark his interest. On the other hand, if you have tried a new look, or bettered your attitude and he still doesn't respond than it time to consider calling your friends and having a girls only movie night.

A word to the wise. When asking any member of his family or one of his friends what he considers unattractive make sure it is someone you know well and that this person is very discrete and knows how to keep your inquiries confidential. Unfortunately, if it get around that you have been inquiring about him behind his back, he could find that very upsetting, and he will only see you in a worse light than he did before. So use discretion when trying to learn more about him.

Men on the other hand, have the possibility that her first reaction might not be her final decision. There is the possibility that when you first expressed your true feelings, she just wasn’t ready or she may need to know you better. I would suggest leaving her a flower in her mailbox or a nice card showing her how much she means to you. Limit yourself to simple things, don’t go over the top. Expensive gifts such as jewelry might only lead to defrauding her, in other words trying to make her express feelings that she isn’t ready to express or had no intention of expressing. I would recommend being chivalrous, by trying to do nice things for her like offering help if she needs it. Find ways to help members of her family as well. Families can be one's best ally when trying to win her heart, what they say about you could influence how she feel about you. Let her get to know your better side, she may start to see the prince instead of the frog.

However, overwhelming her with attention when she has made it clear she doesn’t want you will only make her want to run for the hills. If she responds to your advances, than great you have won her over, but if she repeatedly tries to let you know she isn’t interested then it is time to throw in the towel.

Self dignity is important when it comes to relationships and no one wants to be that creepy guy or that clingy girl.

Ways of dealing when you have been dealt a bad hand

My first suggestion is prayer. Prayer does not only help each of us find the peace we need to deal with not having our way, but it also helps us find ways of resolving any conflict that we may have. Prayer also helps us gain more wisdom so that way we know when to take a stand and when to throw in the towel.

Try talking to people, who have had to deal with similar situations and asked them how they overcame. People, who have experienced similar circumstances often are the ones who can give the best advice and are able to offer us some comfort so that we do not feel so alone in our conflicts.

Make peace with God, yourself and others. Inner peace brings about clearer thinking, calmness and a greater acceptance of life on its terms.


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    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Hi Tess,

      Thank you so much your kind words, I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Kudos to you as well.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi internetwriter62 I just WAna say you have written something great here.. Kudos to you

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Hi Abhitheprince

      It is so nice to hear from you again, thank you for your comment and insight. I agree knowing how to take life on its terms and that includes accepting "no" does display strength and greatness of character.

      I hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying life!

    • Internetwriter62 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Thank you healthy HealthyHanna. Prayer brings inner peace and that helps us think more clearly, at the very least it brings about acceptance.

    • HealthyHanna profile image


      7 years ago from Utah

      Prayer is an important part of knowing. How can you know without having the peace that comes from within.

      Good reasoning.


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