How do you feel about saying “no?” I notice that saying “no” to certain people and in some situations can be challenging for me. Sometimes I find myself saying “yes” when “no” would really be more authentic. More covertly, I also find myself at times giving “half-truths” (which is quite an oxymoron if you think about it). You know what I mean, you run into someone and say, “We should really get together sometime,” but you really have very little interest in or commitment to making that happen. Does this ever happen to you?
What is it about saying “no” that many of us have a hard time with? “No” is such a simple word, only two letters. Yet saying “No” is harder for most people. Most of us said, “No!” quite often when we were two. Anyway, it’s a two-year-old’s job to say “No.” However, the authority figures in our lives at the time, our parents start to teach us to consciously say “Yes”. Therefore, many of us grow up to be people pleasers. The word “No” drops from our vocabulary and are substituted by lots of ways to be agreeable and keep other person happy. And underneath it all we believe that saying “No” can cost us a lot in our adult life.
Practically, the inability to say no comes down to a few specific things. First of all, some people get scared that they will upset others or disappointed them if they say “no.” Secondly, some aren’t comfortable hearing “no” from others, so being the one saying it can be difficult for them. And lastly, I consider some people “yes-type -person”. They pride themself on being open, helpful, willing, and ready to say “yes” at all times. In other words, “no” often seems like a failure, an admission of weakness, or just an overall negative thing to say.
However, saying “no” is one of the most important aspects of living a life filled with balance, integrity, and authenticity. To a large extent the ability to say “no” is tantamount to self-control (which of course is one of the fruits of the spirit); some people today insist that we should just give in to any desires and demands that come our way. It’s a destructive mindset! Just because you have the desire to eat an entire chocolate cake doesn’t mean it’s good for you and because someone’s asks you out on a date do not make the outing moral for you.
Apostle Paul admonished saying, “… let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” [Galatians 5:16, NLT]. The Bible doesn’t say you won’t have sinful desires after you become a Christian, but it says the Holy Spirit will help you choose not to satisfy them. Before you became a believer, you only had willpower to fight against temptations. But it was never enough. You were relatively powerless against the great cravings that drove you. As a believer, now you’ve got the Holy Spirit — and a new ability to say “no.” You still have the same compulsions and impulses you had before you began a relationship with Jesus, but now the power of God resides inside of you. Now you can say “no.” If you ever hear someone say, “I’m a Christian, but I couldn’t stop myself,” they’re lying [Romans 8:9]. They simply never called on the power of the Holy Spirit in the moment of temptation. You have the power to say “no.” Use it.
Jesus Christ, being tempted by Satan, first to doubt in God, secondly to the desire of riches and honour, and lastly to a vain confidence in himself, overcomes him three times by the word of God resident in him. James 1:13-18 teaches us that in order for lust to “conceive,” there must be the joining together of inner desires with outer “bait.” If there is no joining of these two forces, sin is not present. The best illustration of this truth is when Jesus refused to yield to temptation’s enticing invitation (Matthew 4:1-11). It’s not the bait that constitutes sin; it’s the bite! Joseph understood this and refused to let his desire run wild when Potiphar’s wife enticed him to sin. In our next edition, we would understand why and how to say no when circumstance against our conscience lure us to answer yes.