“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25
Why is it so hard sometimes to say “No”? I am referring to saying “No” to people’s requests, work’s demands, and the inner voice saying “you ought to.” There is nothing inherently noble in always saying “Yes.” As dwellers in the midst of 10,000 lakes we might want to write it off as Minnesota nice. But this problem is not unique to Minnesotans and dates back even to the time of Christ.
Jesus warned all human kind about making promises we can’t or don’t want to keep. “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) Everyone knows the regret that comes after saying “Yes” to something when you really wanted to say “No”. You end up kicking yourself for making such a commitment and find that trying to get out of it is much more painful and anxiety ridden than if you had just said “No” in the first place.
There was a time in my life when forming the word and stuttering “N-o-o-o-o” was nigh unto impossible for me. Fortunately the Lord provided people in my life who began to take me to task for the unwanted and often injurious commitments that I was making through my chiming “Yes” to every request that came my way. They challenged me to learn to say “No” both for my sake and also for the sake of my family. Painfully, I realized saying “Yes” all the time was taking its toll not only on my own mental and emotional health but also on those closest to me.
What helped me the most was acknowledging that my inability to say “No” was rooted in fear. The verse in the Bible that opened my eyes to this was the “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” This is a great verse because it offers both the diagnosis and the cure. It reveals that the fear of man is the source of our dis-ease in saying “Yes” when you really want to say “No.” And it states that trust in the Lord is the prescription for saying “No” in the first place. That trust establishes a place of peace in our hearts and a freedom from regret.
I discovered that my fear was two pronged. First it was a fear of what others might think about me. That is pretty obvious from the verse and everyone who has difficulty saying “No” shares in that struggle. Worrying about what people might think, no matter what you do, is a trap.
But I realized there was an even more subtle fear that I was battling. It was not based upon what others thought of me, but upon what I thought of myself. It was a fear of not living up to the self-imposed image I had constructed of myself. I had fallen prey, as so many overly conscientious people do, to setting unrealistic expectations for who I thought I should be, and what I thought I should be able to accomplish.
The fear of not living up to those expectations entrapped me in commitments that were killing both me and the relationships that were most important to me. Unwittingly I had developed a martyr complex and deceived myself into believing that saying “Yes” was God’s will. It dawned on me that in reality, it wasn’t God’s will I was concerned with, but my own will tied to a distorted self-image.
Thankfully, God awakened me to this self-imposed fear and ultimately set me free. He used a loving family, wises counselors and a series of crash-and-burn commitments to finally empower me to say “No” when I really meant “No.”
Do you have any insights or comments regarding this topic?
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