This last week I met with a remarkable woman. She has been through more than I ever want to, has been in leadership positions, and out of them. She has supported people and needed their support. I was asking her about coming on board with My Quiet Cave, but then I told her that if she had too much on her plate, she was not going to hurt my feelings by saying “no.” Her response startled me. She looked at me, and voiced, “I know how to say no.”

I have heard for the past year from a good friend of mine never to say no for other people. He has been hammering that point for the last year. Then I said no for a woman, and she called me on the carpet about it.

Saying no for this person was not a bad thing because it meant she was going to be less involved with My Quiet Cave. It was not bad because she and her husband may consider doing something else. It was bad because in that moment when I slipped, I told her that I did not trust her to be able to make her own decision. I told her that she was less human.

Then I got to learn again, dignity means having the choice.

As a person, part of exercising who I am is the ability to make my own decisions. As a person with bipolar disorder, I have the choice to get help. As a husband, I have the choice to invest in my marriage. As a friend I have the choice to be present. As a director, I have the choice to continue to seek advice from grounded professionals about growing My Quiet Cave to help more people experience hope and healing. Part of being human means that I also have the ability to say no in all of these circumstances. It is my choice. It is me, exercising my dignity.

When this woman spoke back to me, she spoke as someone confident in herself. She knew her capacity. She knew her own ability. She knew what she had to do and what she could do. In her response, she took back her humanity stating “I am no a little girl. I am a person and I am good enough to make the decision for myself.” In that she communicated she had dignity. This was her choice.

In work and in life, I have learned that I have to give others the ability to make choices on their own, because that is part of being human. Even if they are making a bad decision, they have the dignity to make the choice.