Everyday life shows that society—and therefore each of us in it—has a problem.
- Your server approaches your table with the strong smell of tobacco hovering around him. His uncontrollable coughing makes it difficult for him to take your order.
- A 16-year-old boy in your neighborhood contacts an anonymous hotline desperate to break the porn addiction that is taking over his life.
- That gainfully employed relative calls you again for money. Just last month, you sent $200.
- A man with bloodshot eyes on a street corner staggers toward you and asks if you could spare a dollar.
- Your friend confides in you about a phone call she received from her daughter. With her voice cracking and tears streaming down her face, she says, “Megan is pregnant. The father is her on-again-off-again boyfriend.”
- At the grocery store checkout, you wait in line behind a patron whose girth is exceeded only by the pile of junk food in her shopping cart.
Do you detect a pattern?
These scenarios have negative consequences for the victims and those around them. Without needed changes, more distress lies ahead. They’re also commonplace and share a root cause. Any of them is preventable by putting one simple word to good use.
Just say no
Some of you may remember Nancy Reagan’s campaign when her husband was America’s President. She encouraged young people to stop using drugs by adopting the motto Just say no.
Saying no may be our most transformative act as humans. It can avoid hazards or prevent them from metastasizing. More than a killjoy phrase, saying no unleashes people to fruitful adventures rather than allowing them to wander the addiction superhighway.
Among the finest equipping a parent can provide a child is to teach him to say no to himself. It’s an endangered art that instills self-confidence and self-control. It also facilitates lasting contentment. A parent who models this artform increases the likelihood of his child mastering it. On the other hand, children who haven’t learned how to set their own boundaries are susceptible to harmful offers from “friends” and strangers alike.
Easier said than done
Saying no would solve many problems, but we often fail to do it. We have trouble saying no to other people, and we have trouble saying no to ourselves.
Who likes rejection, whether receiving it or doling it out? It creates conflict. For some people, weak self-esteem will challenge such assertiveness. Yet gracefully saying no is a valuable gift—even when spoken to oneself.
Are you concerned about how others will react to a negative response? Take it from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Heeding her wisdom will avoid unwise decisions. People-pleasing serves no one well.
For many of us, however, temptation preys on our weaknesses. Despite knowing better, we succumb.
The power to say no
Do you want to make better decisions? They emanate from wisdom, courage, and self-control. Wisdom recognizes the right decision, courage confronts resistance, and self-control stays the course. All three attributes sprout from a Spirit-filled life.
James 1:5 (NKJV) says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Make that appeal, then turn to the book of Proverbs in the Bible, where there’s no shortage of wisdom.
Courage in the face of the unknown believes in a better future even though fear portends disaster. Trust such as this is the essence of faith. We develop courage by applying it. So exercise faith. Then see how God stretches you.
Finally, Galatians 5:23 lists self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. It indwells anyone who calls on the name of Jesus. Without God’s Holy Spirit living inside us, we can expect neither fruit nor wisdom.
If you already know God and still struggle with saying no, Jesus adds perspective in Luke 9:23 (NKJV). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” In effect, saying no to what we should deny is saying yes to God.
The enemy of our souls lays enticing snares to keep us from the abundant life Jesus promises. Are you saying yes when you should be saying no? If so, life may be to your liking now, but look out ahead. Consider making adjustments before it’s too late.