Discover the Power of Your No

Learning to Set Healthy Boundaries

During basic training at the Academy, we went through the Assault Course, which is an obstacle course with an attitude. The obstacles were designed with a battlefield mindset.

We crawled under barbed wire and hurled pinecone “grenades” at imaginary enemies. They also trained us in close combat tactics and bayonet use. . . Because, you know, it’s important for people in the Air Force to be prepared to use bayonets.

We all carried World War II-era M1 rifles into this simulated combat zone. The barrels had been filled with lead to prevent anyone from actually firing a projectile. We were told in no uncertain terms to never, under any circumstances, surrender our weapons to the enemy.

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The Day I Learned to Resist

How I used the power of no to stop abusive bullying
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There is a great paradox at the Academy. The upperclassmen play the part of both the “enemy,” who we are taught to resist at all costs and the “commanding officer” who we are to obey without hesitation or question. Needless to say, it can sometimes get confusing when to resist and when to submit.

So they had worked out a code to differentiate their actions, attempting to make it clearer. If an upperclassman growled, “Give me your gun,” or tried to take it from us physically, we were to resist as if our life depended on it.

But if moments later the same upperclassman said, “Surrender your weapon,” then that meant, “No, really. I’m giving you a direct order. Obey me and hand it over. I want to teach you something.”

No Mercy

Almost immediately upon arriving at the Assault Course the first time, a couple of upperclassmen pulled me out of formation and marched me into the forest by myself. Out of earshot and visual range of anyone else, they were free to harass me without any oversight or interference.

When the more antagonistic of the two upperclassmen grabbed my weapon and asked me to give it to him, I mistakenly thought he was playing the role of “commanding officer.” I released my grip and let him have it.

That was the moment all hell broke loose upon me.

He began to rant and scream about what a horrible excuse for a soldier I was, just handing my gun over to the bad guys like that. His bullying intensified tenfold as punishment for my heinous crime.

He was merciless.

He drove me to my absolute limits physically while he simultaneously spewed a hateful and endless barrage of insults highlighting my obvious failures as a human being. I made a grievous error in judgment because I thought my “enemy” was trying to teach me something. It turns out, his goal was to trick me, so he could claim the right to beat me.

Trained to Kill

After my squadron had completed running through the Assault Course, he released me to rejoin them. The second phase of our training at the A-Course involved instruction in close combat with a weapon that was apparently out of ammo. We became semi-experts in using our firearms to inflict blunt force trauma upon our foes.

They taught us to thrust and parry with our imaginary bayonets. We also practiced various “butt-strokes” to incapacitate someone without shooting them by using the non-shooting end of the gun. (Good to know when you need to conserve bullets.)

The Persistence of a Bully

We had to visit the Assault Course multiple times, and every time, I was immediately pulled aside by my two personal trainers and escorted back into our little private spot in the forest, out of sight of anyone who had the power to stop the abuse.

After putting up with this harassment for several hours over a number of days, Cadet Bully tried again to take my weapon away by force. But after enduring his wrath for so long, I was in no mood to repeat my former mistake.

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The Power of No

I was ready for him this time. With an “Oh, no you don’t!” attitude, I yanked my weapon away from his grip a little harder than necessary, inadvertently bringing it up over my left shoulder.

This position happened to be the way we initiated the maneuver that had just recently been drilled into my muscle memory called “butt smash to the head.” And in that moment of desperation, that was all I could think about . . . how badly I wanted to drive the butt end of my rifle into my tormentor’s skull.

I was angry and fed up with his intimidation tactics and belittling barrage of insults. It took every last ounce of willpower I possessed not to strike him as hard as I could. My determination and inward struggle to not retaliate must have shown itself in my face because the upperclassman took a step back to put more distance between us.

I regret to say that a sense of satisfaction washed over me when I saw the fear in his eyes. Somehow, in the flash of a moment, we communicated without a word. He got my message of “don’t mess with me anymore” loud and clear and he backed down.

Either he figured I had learned my lesson, decided I was tougher than I looked at first glance, or he just lost interest when I stood up to him. I’m not sure. We never spoke about it, and I never saw him again. He just let me go.

By the power of my non-verbal “No”, I gained freedom from relentless harassment.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [ungodly spirits], because the one who is in you is greater than

the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4, NIV (content in brackets is mine)

Lesson Learned

I completed basic training without actually running the Assault Course, yet somehow still managed to learn the lesson the course was designed to teach me. I discovered that I had within me the ability to assault someone if it was both necessary and right.

The only thing that held me back that day was a clear conscience in the midst of my rattled emotions and fatigued body, but if my cause had been just, I’m confident that guy would have at least been seriously injured by my hand.

That was a defining moment of my life. I learned the power of my own “No.”

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. John 4_4
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Just say “No!” to your greatest enemy

As Christians, our “No” also carries power. We don’t have to lay ourselves down and take being beaten by the enemy. By God’s grace and through His power, we can stand strong and fight back. Say, “No” to your enemy and “Yes” to your God. (James 4:7)

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Never allow the enemy to take your weapons away thereby limiting your ability to fight the good fight God has set before you. Don’t believe the enemy when he acts like you have no choice or that he’s trying to help you.

Instead of going along with the enemy’s suggestions and falling for his tricks, let us ask ourselves, “What does God want for me?” Choose God’s best for you and reject evil. Don’t give in. Hold on tight to all that God has given and ordained for you. Hold on tight and jerk it back with all your might. (Ephesians 6:11 and 2 Corinthians 2:11)

Sometimes, you have to get a little angry with righteous anger. It’s okay to get fed up with your enemy taking and killing and wrecking all that God intends to be beautiful in your world. (John 10:10) Take it back by the power of the cross of Christ.

Sometimes, you have to get a little angry with righteous anger. It’s okay to get fed up with your enemy taking and killing and wrecking all that God intends to be beautiful in your world. (John 10:10) Click To Tweet

Lord, please show us where we are allowing evil to trample us because we are unwilling to stand up and simply say, “No.”
Enable us to say, “Yes!” to all that honors you and resolutely reject the abuse you never intended us to endure.
Strengthen us to resist evil in all its forms as we humbly submit ourselves to Your perfect leadership.

In jesus’ name, amen.

What are some ways we can resist evil in our culture today?
How can we do a better job of submitting to God with regards to the evils we face?
Share your ideas in the comments below.

Discover the Power of Your No
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UNDEFEATED: From Trial to Triumph

This post is adapted from my book, UNDEFEATED. Get your own copy today to read more!

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