One of the most difficult words to say or to hear in the English language is no. Say the word to a toddler and watch the reaction. Say it to a teenager and see what happens. Say it to a young adult or even someone well up in age and the reaction will be felt. Conversely, we find ourselves struggling for good responses when someone says no to us. If you want to test your maturity level, see how you do the next time someone says no to you.
This subject has been on my mind lately as I have been debating on some issues that I need to respond. In weighing out the pros and cons of either saying yes or no to some situations, I find myself logically coming to the conclusion that the best answer is no. What makes the process more painful is the reality that even though it makes best sense to say no, I really don’t want to do it. Somehow if I review the facts again the result will change. It’s like seeing 2+2 on a page and being frustrated because it keeps coming up 4 when part of me wishes it would magically equal 5.
How many of us have gotten into trouble by being unable or unwilling to say no when we knew that really was the best answer to the situation? How many of us have harbored negative feelings when someone said the word to us?
One truth that is sometimes missed in all of this is that every time we say yes to one thing, we are by default saying no to something else. We each are making a value judgment about what is to be prioritized. To say it very simply, not everything we choose to do or not to do is as important as some others.
I, like many Christians, have struggled to put into practice and maintain the spiritual habits or disciplines that the Bible as well as church history tell me will help me grow in my walk with Christ. The often heard reason given for the inconsistency or lapses is time. That analysis of the problem really dilutes the true issue. What really is going on is a decision on my part to say no to God. When I do this I am making a value judgment that puts God somewhere below all the other “valuable” priorities and relationships in my life. When I see it in this stark fashion, I am embarrassed and look for ways to keep it from happening again.
I think the reason it keeps happening is because the desire to be approved by others is shockingly present in my life. I don’t want to let anyone down. I don’t want to miss out on this or that special moment. I want to be included in whatever group that I think is “worthy”. The pressure to never say no to the inner cravings or the outside pressures that promise a feeling of acceptance is immense.
Jesus said in the Gospel according to Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'”
To deny oneself or to say no to oneself is a very critical issue for those desiring to follow Jesus properly. It starts with a very strong belief and resolve to make sure we don’t let anyone or anything come between us and God. It means that the evil one will be tempting us regularly with seeking the approval of others or of some imagined idea of success in hopes to distract us. It means we must become more comfortable with saying yes to God and less troubled by saying no to other things vying for our attention and loyalty. The struggle is real and is being played out in minds every day. Let us pray that we each will be faithful in our choices and convinced that choosing God first is and will be worth it!