Why we cannot say “No.”

“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 and freedom in our hearts from regret.

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