Saying No

Have you ever experienced undue pressure? It may come at work, home or elsewhere. Undue Pressure is where you are being asked or compelled to do something that you consider wrong or unethical, and therefore, don’t want to do that. Undue pressure comes when the other party is in a higher position of power, compared to you, and asserts that power on you. Here below, I wish to share some of my personal experiences in this matter. I will also share a story from the past that converges on the theme.

This is of those days when I had taken up a job, as an expat, as a Head of Department of Studies in an educational institution. My boss, who was Head of the Institution, was also an expat. One day, my boss came to me and told me that a certain student in my department should be allowed to walk with the graduating class in the forthcoming convocation ceremony, though that student had yet not completed all the required courses. The student was short of one course to complete the program of study. I said, No, I will not do it. He insisted. I said, If you insist, I can resign but not sign. Possibly, he would have his own pressure. I said that if he so likes he may over-rule my decision and allow that student to walk with graduates in the forthcoming convocation ceremony. Which he didn’t do, but instead made me meet up face to face with the student so that he is able to show to the student, who the real hurdle is!

Let me accept that student had position and connections of high influence. When we met, I just asked the student, would you like that if it ever gets leaked out to the media that in your case an exception was made. What we call the LA Times Test. That LA Times Test essentially means what if what you do is out in the public tomorrow morning? I told him that you hold such exalted positions at this young age. You have a long career ahead. Would you like ever in the future that it gets exposed and talked to in the public? It is definitely ‘not good for you’. If you complete your course and walk in the next convocation ceremony, you will live forever with your head held high. And it worked. Indeed, I had enjoyed the best of the relations with that student till I worked there. With the boss certainly not.

The other day, I came across a similar story of ancient times, maybe 10,000 years or more. It had worked even then. That ancient story goes like this:

Once there was a mighty king named Vishwamitra. One day he learned that there was a sage in his kingdom whom everybody adored. The name of this sage was Vasishta, and everyone gladly touched his feet. Now, although Vishwamitra was a powerful king, nobody used to come and touch his feet. People were afraid of him, and they would tremble before him. But with Vasishta it was different. People gladly touched Vasishta’s feet with deepest appreciation and admiration. So Vishwamitra was extremely jealous of Vasishta. He always thought while I am the King, how come that simple sage has so much more respect and regard than me?

Vasishta was a great sage. Vasishta was a God-realized person. Vishwamitra knew that that was the reason why everybody was adoring Vasishta instead of him, so he too started praying to God. He prayed to God for a couple of years very seriously, but still he did not realize God. Then he became impatient. He went to Vasishta and said, “You have realized God, but I have not been able to. I wish you tell the world that I have also realized God, like you.”

Vasishta replied, “How can I say that?”

“You can say it” the king insisted. “If you tell people, everybody will believe you, as you are well respected and regarded by general masses. Tell everyone that I have realized God. Otherwise, I shall kill your children (biological and students)!”

Vasishta said, “You can kill my children, but I cannot tell a lie.”

Vishwamitra, through his henchmen, killed, one by one, hundred children of Vasishta. Even after doing this Vishwamitra was not satisfied because Vasishta still refused to announce that he had realized God. After a few months he thought, “This time Vasishta has to tell the world that I have realized God, or I shall kill him!”

With this idea in his mind he went to Vasishta’s cottage. Before knocking at the door, he stood outside quietly listening to the conversation inside. Arundhati, Vasishta’s wife, was saying to her husband, “My lord, why don’t you say that Vishwamitra has realized God? If you had said it I would still have all my children. They were such nice, kind, devoted children. They were all jewels. But just because you wouldn’t say that he has realized God, he has killed all my children, and who knows what he will do next!”

Vasishta said, “How can you ask me to do that? I love him. He has not realized God. How can I tell people that he has realized God? I love him and that is why I cannot tell a lie.” Even though Vishwamitra had killed a hundred sons of Vasishta, the father could still say that he loved him!

When Vishwamitra heard what Vasishta said, he went running inside and touched Vasishta’s feet, crying, “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, my lord. I never knew that anyone on earth could love a person who had killed all his children.”

Vasishta placed his hand on Vishwamitra’s head and blessed him. He said, “Today you have realized God, because today you know what love is, what truth is. God is all forgiveness. I am forgiving you because the God in me is forgiving you.”  (The story is based on


Dr. Sat Parashar, PhD, is former Director, IIM Indore. He currently teaches Money and Banking at the Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego, California, and is a Financial Services Professional associated with MassMutual (Arizona). He may be reached at

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