The True Love of Saying “No”

Steve Otradovec

World Challenge’s partners are helping others see how setting boundaries can be not only loving but also an opening for the gospel.

Many believers assume that relationship boundaries are unloving and therefore unchristian. A popular idea is that self-sacrificial living should mean having no defenses or lines that shouldn’t be crossed, but it ignores many verses in the Bible that order us to have discernment and enforce consequences for sinful behavior.

As followers of God, we should have healthy boundaries so that we can successfully fulfill God-given obligations and love others with pure motivations.

As World Challenge’s partners are working with their communities, they sometimes find individuals who are being taken advantage of by family or neighbors. Discovering the balance of a loving life that doesn’t always say “yes” to others is sometimes easy and sometimes trickier, but our partners are ready to walk alongside people through the learning process like they did with Pacencia.

A Boundaryless Life’s Pain

Pacencia has two children and has been a widow for 13 years. She provided for her small family with several jobs like babysitting her niece and selling Avon, personal collection products and Tupperware.

All of this worked well enough until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines in March. All kinds industries were affected, especially small home businesses like Pacencia’s. Many people’s priority shifted to just being able to put food on the table and affording other basic necessities.

Pacencia had started working with World Challenge’s partners, and she had the idea to start a sari-sari store, which would include all kinds of goods. She didn’t have the money to create this start-up, but our partners were able to help her get a loan. Everything seemed to be on the right track until Pacencia started having trouble restocking her store. Neighbors were coming to ‘buy’ her products, but they couldn’t pay her right away. They were also struggling because of the pandemic, so they kept offering to pay her later for the goods they were taking.

Pacencia was struggling to refuse them when they came into her shop without any money. These were her neighbors, and wasn’t this what a good Christian should do to show love to others?

The problem was she needed to be able to feed her own children and keep her store from going out of business.

The Power of Drawing a Line

World Challenge’s partners offer several trainings on how to manage debts and biblical trainings on how to develop healthy relationships with others, a skill that often requires tactfully saying “no.”

Pacencia began attending these trainings and working directing with our partners. She learned to keep her store’s accounts in balance with her loan. She learned that it was not only appropriate but the most loving thing to sometimes refuse others, especially with customers when they were unable to pay her for her stock. She learned how to remain polite and deescalate tense conversations without compromising her stance.

Her sari-sari store now provides for her family’s daily needs, and Pacencia is finding that she has more opportunities to share God’s Word with others. Her peace, hope and steadfast strength is catching others’ attention.

She told our partners, “I thank God for the opportunity of being part of the community health evangelism program here…. And the lesson we learn from the trainings really helped me and made me realized that doing business is not only for myself. God entrusts small things to us to be a blessing for others who are in need.”

In learning how to set healthy boundaries, she has discovered a greater capacity to truly love others.