THE MAN WHO SAID, NO!
Recently I was at a committee meeting and it was discovered we needed more people to serve on it. As we discussed potential candidates to fill up the committee I mentioned someone I will refer to here as “So and So.” So and So happens to be a good man, and would have made an excellent member of the committee since So and So is capable, a good leader, wise, and easy to work with. Unfortunately for us So and So said, “no!”
I admire So and So for saying “no.” He said “no” because he is at the stage of life where he has to care for an elderly family member and cannot risk taking on more commitments. He has said, “yes” to his family and this forced him to say “no” to us. His “yes” is enhanced by the times and circumstances in which he chooses to say “no.” It is not that he was saying “no” to something which was a bad thing, or outside of his field of knowledge, or even outside of his responsibilities. He is part of a larger group that decided to form the committee and as a member of that group he shares a responsibility to make the larger group successful.
Yet, he is one among many (all) of us who have to make choices about our time and how we will spend it. We all have the same amount of time in any given day and the same amount of days in any given week. We are different in the amount of days we are given, but while we have them they are all exactly the same size. Obviously part of living a good life is making choices not to waste our lives in what might hurt us or other people. In short a righteous life is saying “no!” to things which are wicked or sinful or evil. Let’s grant that some of those choices are not so easy to make for many of us but it is fairly easy to see doing “bad” things as a bad choice.
The problem in saying “no” for many of us is learning how to say “no” when it is a choice between what is good and what is best, or what is good and what is actually the right thing for us to be doing at the time. These choices are not so easy especially if we have a personality that hates to think people might be disappointed in us. These choices are not so easy when we know we could actually help in the situation; that we have the knowledge, skills, energy, and resources to make a difference. Yet, we must give it up so that we might do something more responsible. It is hard to make such choices when the good thing that opposes the right thing is actually more fun to do than the exact right thing we ought to be doing.
Again, we are not talking about the choice between sin and righteousness here, though it might be a choice between being sinful versus being righteous. Yes, we can be sinful in doing something good which robs us of the time to be doing what we should. Sometimes we can get away with the inferior choice because no one sees the best thing left unattended. No one who sees us doing something ordinarily good has any reason to condemn us. In fact, they might heap praise upon us for being with them, or helping them, or serving some need.
Some of us make incorrect choices in commitments of our time because we are “people pleasers” and some of us make bad time choices because we are driven by guilt or some over- developed sense of being essential. All the times we say either “no” or “yes” we sacrifice its opposite. If I say “yes” to you I must being saying “no” to someone or something else because time is also bounded by space. I cannot be in two places at the same time.
Choices come with a cost and it obviously takes wisdom, sometimes gained only through hard experience, to be able to count that cost before making a decision and not simply paying the cost afterwards. Regret, frustration, broken relationships, stress, burnout, and anger are all prices to be born from being over committed.
On the other hand there are some who make such choices (especially in saying “no”) out of selfishness or laziness or irresponsibility. That too carries a cost, both personally, in our families, and socially. That is another kettle of fish as they say. Primarily I am speaking to those who are usually driven to agree to help, attend, serve, and do but who just hate to say that very blessed and essential word which can help us retain sanity, physical health, and familial connections. I am saying that “no!” is sometimes a good thing to say. I wish I was better at it.