By Allen K Baguma
In life, there is a word that carries more power than you would think. And it is not “matooke” or “rolex,” or whatever else you are thinking.
It is the word ‘no’. It is the two-letter marvel, the ultimate game-changer, and the unsung hero of integrity and ethical living.
You might be wondering what is so special about saying no. Grab your cup of Ugandan coffee and let us explore this word.
Do not bow to pressure
In today’s world of limitless choices, the pressure to give in and say ‘yes’ grows greater every day, eroding ethics and the very core values that make us humans.
A Yoruba proverb says: “Ashes fly back in the face of him that throws them”.
The yeses made will always fly back to us as limitations, broken promises, disappointment, burdens and much more. Never has ‘no’ been more needed than today.
Now, let us be honest, ‘no’ is not exactly an easy word to use especially when we rather please than be truthful, logical or ethical.
It is more like the awkward silence that follows a boda-boda breakdown in the silence of the night at Northern bypass.
Often, there is something downright amusing about the way we Ugandans tiptoe around the truth, especially when the truth is ‘no’.
Imagine this; you are at a kwanjula, and the auntie from the bride’s side serves up her legendary luwombo.
You take a bite, and it is like a flavor explosion of bicycle tires and road dust in your mouth.
You know the polite thing to do is to say, “It’s delicious, Auntie,” but your taste buds are screaming “no!”
We all have been there, nibbling on less-than-appetising dishes with a fake grin, agreeing to bosses even when we know we cannot fulfill, accepting opportunities we cannot manage, taking on more financial burdens from friends and relatives because we cannot say no and many others.
And then there is that nerve-wracking moment when your phone rings and it is your cousin Sheila, who is organising her baby shower.
She asks if you can lead the meeting. Your heart shouts “NO!” but your mouth cheerily replies, “Of course, Sheila!”
Just like that, you are now the official chairperson of something you do not even believe in, and you can barely understand the fuss!
This is our daily life. Every day, we find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between being honest and doing the socially acceptable thing.
It is like a never-ending script with a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ hiding it out from the spotlight. So, why are we often so hesitant to utter the “N-word”?
Well, it is like we have all been to the school where we learnt to be cordial, accommodating, and to avoid any form of saying no.
Our life is like a skit where the punchline is always “Yes, Yaa, Yaa”.
But dear, here is the twist – real life is not a comedy show, and saying ‘yes’ all the time can lead to some seriously unethical and life-burdening decisions.
Now this is where the wisdom of ‘no’ comes in. In the Bible, we are told: “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and Your ‘No’ ‘No’.
For Whatever is more than these is from the Evil One” (Matthew 5:37).
This is a divine punch line and command to contradict our popularism and people-pleasing disease. It is not about becoming the grumpy soul who says ‘no’ to everything.
No, no, no! I am also not suggesting you turn into a ‘no automaton’. No one wants to live with a soul who always shoots down every idea.
The key is to say ‘no’ with grace, to kindly decline when it does not align with your principles, and to deliver without feeling of fear, guilt and shame.
It is about finding a balance, like dodging potholes on Mityana -Mubende Road.
We must say ‘no’ when it is needed, and ‘yes’ when it aligns with our values and priorities. The result? You become real to yourself and others. This also means you can stand for what is right and ethically correct.
No does not make you the villain in your story. It makes you the hero. It is a way of preserving your integrity and maintaining your priorities.
Just remember, whatever your beliefs are, the power of saying ‘no’ will be a critical principle in your moral and ethical pursuit.
As Herbert Arger once said, “The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.”
The writer is a leadership enthusiast & trainer