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The “No” that means “Yes”

14 September 2011

My one-year-old niece Sahara has a “no” that means “yes” and a “no” that means “no.” We first discovered this one day when we asked her, “You hungry?” and she violently shook her head “no,” smiling from ear to ear, and looked disappointed when we started to take the food away.  

Most women by instinct or training develop the art of saying “yes” when they mean “no.”  Or “no” when they want to say “yes.” God forbid we say what we really mean! It makes things so much easier when we say one thing while meaning another, expect others to read our minds, and then get bitter when they don’t! We know it doesn’t make sense, but we do it anyway.

We’re not crazy, we’re just people pleasers.

  • We say “yes” to organizing a church function or teaching Sunday school even though we’re already overcommitted.
  • We say “no” to having a night out with friends because we feel guilty taking time off.
  • We say “yes” when we pick up the phone and talk to people who drone on and on about their troubles but never do anything about them.
  • We say “yes” to volunteering to keep a friend’s kids even though we’re exhausted from a hard day’s work.
  • We say “no” to any splurges for ourselves because there are so many other people in need.

And why? Because we want everyone to be happy. We think we’re being unselfish. We want people to like us. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves. We don’t want to be a party-pooper. We want to be seen as a team player. We don’t want to let anybody down.

“But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:37 KJV)

Saying one thing and meaning another is not only not unhealthy, it’s unbiblical. In Matthew, Jesus says if you say “yes” mean yes. If you say “no” mean no. It’s healthier for you (my words now, not His) and ultimately will lead to healthier, more honest, less codependent relationships with those around you. That level of honesty will also separate the chaff from the wheat: your true friends are the ones who will stick around and still like you.

On a chubby-cheeked, blond-haired, dimpled one-year-old, a “no” that means “yes” can be cute and funny; but it’s not so cute in a grown woman. Next time you’re tempted to fall into that trap, ask yourself, “Am I feeling guilty because this is something GOD wants me to do and I’m not doing it, or because I’m AFRAID that people will think less of me?” Saying what you mean in a nice, respectful, loving way puts up healthy boundaries in your relationships. Done properly, it can be the most exciting and freeing experience you’ve had in a long time.

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5 Comments to “The “No” that means “Yes””

  1. One of the many things I admire about you is your ability to be able to state your needs and opinions directly and clearly. We don’t learn that well in East Texas…

  2. I second everything Michelle said, and I like that book. Sahara is beautiful and getting SO big.
    Miss you!

  3. Cute baby! 🙂

  4. Most of my life, when someone asked me to do something for them, I would automatically answer “YES! Of course! I’d be happy to!” Only later would my brain catch up with my mouth and realize that I had other previous commitments, or that I really didn’t WANT to do it, but was answering out of guilt or pressure.

    In my teens, on several occassions I actually agreed to TWO babysitting jobs for two different families on the same night! It was quite embarrassing when both families showed up at my house at the same time and I realized my mistake…

    I’m learning now to say, “Let me think about it and pray about it and get back to you.” Such a simple thing, but it makes SUCH a difference, allowing me to honestly examine the reasons I would say yes or no, whether it’s something God wants, whether it’s a good use of my time, etc.

    Cloud and Townsend, in their book “Boundaries,” point out that if I say “yes” when I mean “no,” I will be resentful and bitter and not free to fully engage with the other person or situation. But saying “yes” only when I really MEAN “yes” is such a freeing experience! It frees me to relax and truly enjoy myself.

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