Learning to Say “No”

Reading: 2 Kings 17:7-23

Here we read a long list of all the sins of the kingdom of Israel. It all started when Israel wanted to be just like everyone else around them. They learned to worship the idols of the people around them. The Israelites forgot that they were supposed to be holy and different. You can see that many terrible things started with just one “small” thing: wanting to be like everybody else.

Sometimes we don’t like being so different from others. But we have to remember that our different-ness is what makes us bright, beautiful, shining lights in this world. Some people will not like us for that. But some will – they will notice, they will want to learn, and their soul may be saved because of the Light that you brought to them!

The Wonderful Pocket and Other Stories was written by Chauncey Giles and published in 1869. Now out of print, the book may be read freely online.


“Po-p-o, Popopo, Popocat, Pop-o- catapit. Oh, dear, what a hard word! I can never pronounce it, I am sure. I wish they would not have such hard names in geography,” said George Gould, entirely out of patience. “Will you please to tell me how to pronounce the name of this mountain, father ? I wish they would not have any mountains, or else give them easier names.”

“Why, do you call that a hard word to pronounce ?” said his father. “I know much harder words than that.”

“Well, this is the hardest word I ever saw,” murmured George. ” I wish they had put the name into the volcano, and burnt it up. P-o-ppop-o, Popo-c-a-t-cat, Popocat. “Why couldn’t they have called it Pop, or Popocat? That would be a funny name, and I could remember that; for I should think of a cat popping his head out of the crater.”

“I know how to pronounce it,” said Jane, who had been slyly looking in the dictionary while George was grumbling and stumbling over the long word. Jane had made a grand discovery a few weeks before; and that was, that the dictionary always told her how to spell and pronounce the hardest words, and gave her the meaning besides; and now, instead of getting out of patience, or waiting for some one else to tell her, she always went to the dictionary, and was sure to find what she wanted.

“Well, if you know, please to tell me,” said George; ” for I shall never find it out myself, I am sure.” And he began to spell it over again; but he could get no farther than ” Popocat.”

“You have almost got it,” said Jane; ” but it is not Po-po-cat, but Pop-o-ca’-te-petl”

“Pop-o-ca’-te-petl,” said George, in a slow and measured manner, stopping between each syllable. “Well, it is not so very hard after all, when you know how; but it is hard to find out, it is so long. I wish they would not have any long words, and then one could pronounce them easy enough.”

“I do not think so,” said his father. “Some of the hardest words I have ever seen are the shortest. I know one little word with only two letters in it, that very few children, or men either, can always speak.”

“Oh, I suppose it is some French or German word; isn’t it, father?”

“No: it is English; and, what you may think strange, it is just as hard to pronounce in one language as another.”

“Only two letters! What can it be? Do tell us what that little word is that is so hard!” cried both the children.

“I don’t think,” said George, “any short word can be so hard as the long Mexican ‘Popocatepetl;’ do you, Jane?”

“No, indeed! Father must be in fun.”

“No; I am not.”

“Well, what is the hardest word to pronounce you ever saw, father?”

“The hardest word,” replied their father, “I have ever met with in any language-and I have learned several-is a little word of two letters- N-o, No.”

” Oh, now we know you are making fun of us!” cried both the children; “that is one of the easiest words in the world.” And, to prove their father was mistaken, they both repeated, “No, no, no,” a great many times.

“I am not joking in the least. I really think it is the hardest word to speak I ever found. It may seem easy enough to you to-night; but perhaps you cannot pronounce it to-morrow.”

“I can always say it, I know I can,” said George with much confidence; “‘ No. Why, it is as easy to say it as to breathe. Just open your mouth, and that little word will pop out any time; but when you come to that’ Pop,’ with a long eruption of cats and pet eels” (George was somewhat of a wag, let me tell you), “that is enough to choke one.”

Well,” replied his father, “I hope you will always find it as easy to pronounce as you think it is now, and be able to speak it when you ought.”

Here the conversation ended. George finished learning his lesson, and at the appointed time went to bed, to dream of volcanoes, cats, and eels, and hard words which it was impossible to pronounce.

In the morning he went bravely to school, with the full consciousness that he knew his lesson, and a little proud that he could pronounce so hard a word as “Popocatepetl.”

Not far from the school-house was a large pond of very deep water, where the boys were accustomed to skate and slide when it was frozen over. So eager were they to enjoy the sport, that they could hardly wait for the ice to get strong enough to bear them, before they went on to it; and the winter before, two of these venturesome boys had been drowned. Mr. Gould had therefore strictly forbidden George to go on the ice, without his special permission.

The night before, while George was getting his lesson by a glowing fire, Jack Frost had been busy changing the surface of the pond into beautiful crystals of ice; and when the boys went to school in the morning, they found the pond as smooth and clear as glass. Some of them threw a few stones on to the ice to test its strength; but the most daring of the boys did not think it safe in the morning. The day was cold, however; and they thought by noon it would be strong enough to bear. The prospect for sport was so great, that they could hardly wait until noon; and the morning seemed much longer than usual.

As soon as the school was out, the boys all ran to the pond-some to try the ice, and others merely to see it.

“Come, Georgie,” said William Green; ” now we will have a glorious time sliding. I am sure the ice is strong enough to bear; and see how smooth it is!”

George hesitated, and said he did not believe it was strong enough; for it had been frozen over only one night.

“Oh, come on!” said another boy ; ” I know it is strong enough. I have known it to freeze over in one night many a time, so that it would bear; haven’t you, John ? ”

“Yes,” answered John Brown; ” it did one night last winter; and it wasn’t as cold as it was last night, either.”

But George still hesitated. He remembered what his father had said, and he was a little afraid also that the ice was not strong enough to be quite safe.

“I know why George won’t go,” said John; ” he’s afraid he might fall down and hurt himself.” “Or the ice might crack,” said another; ” and the noise would frighten him. Perhaps his mother might not like it.” “Come on, boys, and let him go!” shouted a number of the boys. “He’s a coward; that’s the reason he won’t come.”

George could stand this no longer; for he was rather proud of his courage. “I am not afraid,” said he; and, without stopping to think more, he ran to the pond, and was the first one on the ice. They kept near the shore at first; but, although the ice bent and cracked when several of the boys happened to come near to each other, they grew more and more venturesome. They enjoyed the sport very much; running and sliding, and trying to catch each other on its smooth surface.

More and more boys kept coming on as they saw the sport, and began to think there was no danger; when, amidst their laughter and merry calls, there was a loud cry, “The ice has broken! the ice has broken!” and, sure enough, three of the boys had fallen through, and were struggling in the water; and one of them was George. It so happened that the teacher had been attracted by the noise, and had come to call the boys from the ice just as they fell through. He caught some boards from a fence close by; and calling to the boys in the water not to be afraid, but to keep their heads above the water, he shoved the boards out on the ice; and, by the aid of some of the scholars, he pushed them along until they got one within reach of the boys in the water. The teacher then told them to hold on to that until he could get some more. After a while they succeeded in reaching the three boys and getting them out of the water, but not until they were nearly frozen.

They were immediately sent home. George’s father and mother were very much frightened when he was brought in, and they learned how narrowly he had escaped drowning. They were so rejoiced to find that he was safe, however, that they did not ask him how he came to go on the ice, until after tea. When they were all gathered together about the cheerful fire, his father asked him how he came to disobey his positive command.
George said he did not want to go, but the boys made him.

“How did they make you ? Did they take hold of you, and drag you on?” asked his father.

“No,” said George; “but they all wanted me to go.”

“When they asked you, why didn’t you say ‘No’?”

“I was going to; but they called me a coward, and said I was afraid to go; and I couldn’t stand that.”

“And so,” said his father, “you found it easier to disobey me, and run the risk of losing your own life, than to say that little word you thought so easy last night. You could not say ‘No.'”

George now began to see why the word was so hard to pronounce. It was not because it was so long, or composed of such difficult sounds, but because it was opposing evil and false principles to say it. And this is the hardest thing we have to do. He learned a most important lesson, however, from his disaster. Whenever in after life he was tempted by his companions or his own evils to do wrong, he remembered his narrow escape from drowning, and the importance of the little word “No;” and though it cost him a great effort sometimes to say it, yet he bravely made it. The oftener he said it, the easier it became; and, in time, he could say it, when occasion required, without much effort.

I hope all the children who read this story will remember this little word, and learn to speak it when they ought. They will sometimes find it very difficult to pronounce; but the more difficult, the more important it is; and no one will ever find it impossible to speak, if he earnestly tries, and looks to the Lord to help him. Whenever you are tempted to do wrong, never forget to say “No.”

For Further Study:

  • The sins that the Israelites did all began because of what they failed to be.
    It wasn’t enough that they “wore” the name of Israel; God wanted them to really belong to Him in their hearts. The same is true for God’s people today. There are many things we must remember to do for God, but it all has to come from wanting to be like Christ, inside. While nobody on earth can be perfect like Christ, God’s children always have their hearts open to Him, trying to mold themselves to His will. If we start with that attitude, all the things that God desires for us to do will follow.
    Read Philippians 2:1-1-16 and think about how an attitude like Christ’s will influence how we act.
  • You can see from today’s story how “little” sins can lead to big, terrible consequences. That’s why we have to be careful with what we allow. Are there any little things in your life that are bothering you? Are you having any troublesome thoughts or urges? Ask God to help you. Ask Him to give you courage and wisdom to bend your will to His, and to build up those good habits and thoughts that will please Him.
Posted in Courage, Family, Holiness/purity, Youth. Comments Off on Learning to Say “No”
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