Dave Brisbin 10.8.23
How hard is it for you to say no? From telemarketers to employers, people on the street with signs to friends and family, there’s a psychological spectrum of difficulty. No one likes to give anyone the bad news of no, but if the difficulty is so great that it’s near-impossible, then we’ve shifted from concern for another to a form of codependency, concern for what another thinks of us. We’re all codependent to certain degrees, but when we can no longer simply say yes and no, there’s a problem.

In a recent group discussion, women said they thought it was harder for them to say no than men—that women are more relationally focused and taught to please others in a way men are not. But everyone had varying levels of difficulty: the introverts said the answer is always no, no matter how many times they say yes; one man said you should always say no first, because it’s much easier to change your mind later to yes; a woman said that her no was always softened, accompanied by an alternative; while another spoke of the virtues of “maybe.”

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Jesus said that yes or no are sufficient answers, you don’t need oaths or appeals to higher authority. In the context of formal contracts and proceedings, he spoke to a tradition that allowed people to legally break their promises depending on what authority they based their oath. God’s name was always binding, but lesser authorities were not. Jesus is saying we don’t need any higher authority than our own word to bind our promises once we have come to care about others as much as ourselves. Who is the person making the promise?

For an honest person, no oath is necessary—for a dishonest person, no oath is enough.

What does it take to be the person Jesus suggests? To simply say yes or no…why, only later if needed…takes someone who’s experienced an inner assurance of belonging and acceptance. Someone strong enough to say yes and carry it out; non-codependent enough to say no without loss of identity.

When we say yes to one thing, we say no to another. Yes and no, define us and the course of our lives. Jesus is showing us the freedom to choose with something other than fear.


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