I can’t stand saying no. My inability to refuse requests means I wind up in tight squeezes. Often. It also means I feel stressed. Most of the time.
So WHY is it that I can’t (or won’t) say “no” to requests from various sources (kids, family, work, friends, church, self, society in general)?
I’ve decided to figure it out, using a series of posts, especially since I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this!
Reason #1 Why I Hate Saying No:
Somewhere along the way, a scripture verse was implanted in my mind. Something about not withholding good from another person when it is within your power to do something. For most of my life, I’ve believed that it’s my responsibility to do good when I’m able. I still think so, and this verse often goes through my head when I consider a new opportunity or request for my time, services, friendship, etc. So God wants me to do good every time I have the opportunity, and to never withhold a good deed from someone when I’m able to accomplish it. Right?
Sounds great, but how would one actually accomplish this? For example, I saw a man today on the street in New Orleans. He was holding a sign telling me he’s homeless, needs help. I had a ten dollar bill in my wallet. It technically WAS within my power to act. But I didn’t. I didn’t roll down my window for this guy, and I didn’t stop the car to let him get in. I didn’t bring him out to eat or help him find a job, even though technically I do have the ability to do all those things.
Keep going with this and you’ll have a glimpse of the craziness that happens in my head. How is it possible to NEVER withhold good from a person when it is in my power to act? Let’s face it: with technology today, and living in what is still the wealthiest country on earth even in an economic slump, there’s not much that’s outside my ability. I CAN make a call, find a resource, introduce a person, give a ride, make a meal, have a talk, buy a bag of groceries… it’s almost always within my power to do something. Oh yeah… except for that whole 24 hour in a day limitation and all. (But when have I ever let that stop me??)
I decided I’d better look up the verse, so here it is:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act
At first glance I noticed some words I’d failed to remember before: “Do not withhold good from those TO WHOM IT IS DUE,”
Hmmm…. what does this mean? Honestly, I’m not totally sure, but I find it interesting that there IS a qualifier in there: to whom it is due. Does this mean the person receiving the good deed should be deserving? Does it mean we should not withhold good when we OWE it in some way (as in payment of a bill)? Is it a reminder that we should fulfill commitments made to do good? Whatever it means, it’s no doubt significant that a guideline was placed in there. Up until now, I’d interpreted the verse as a command to do good to EVERYONE, period, no matter what, when it is in your power to act. Now, I realize there’s a qualifier.
I’m also pondering on the idea of WITHHOLDING good. I picture myself with a bag of delicious cookies or a box of cupcakes, hogging them all to myself, refusing to share with even the hungriest of my friends or family. The idea of having something good and refusing to share it is appalling to me. Clearly unbecoming of a believer in Jesus. But, if I say “no” to a request when I truly don’t have the time, the expertise, or couldn’t easily get the resources, am I really WITHHOLDING good? Can you withhold something you don’t already have?
Scripture is also clear in other places about a wife’s responsibility to husband, a mother to children, a daughter to family, and employee to employer. Often saying “yes” to a request that I technically COULD accomplish means I end up withholding good from those to whom I clearly OWE the responsibility: my husband, children, family, or employer. So it becomes clear to me that saying “no” could sometimes be a way that I OBEY this command rather than fail to fulfill it, especially when the request I refuse would cost me time and energy that already belongs to my marriage, my children, my family or my job.
If my life (myself, my heart, my emotional energy, friendship, capacity for love and compassion, my time, my intellect, etc.) were a bank account, I gotta be honest with you, I stay overdrawn. At the very least robbing Peter to pay Paul if you know what I mean. I recognize the same condition in most of my friends and acquaintances as well, especially those among the believers. However, I’m not sure our Father meant for us to be out of balance in this way. Even in the above mentioned scripture verse, I’m not sure He was trying to command me to behave in the way I’ve been trying to. I’m not sure He meant “Say yes to everything you are asked to do, make everyone your best friend, and take on every unfortunate situation as your own.”
As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t be best friends with everyone. I can’t be responsible for the welfare and happiness of everyone I come in contact with every day, and trying to do so produces a life spread so thin that no one gets anything good. So either God has commanded us in the aforementioned verse to do something we can never, ever actually do, OR maybe He was saying something a little more like: “Be careful to share and give good things to those that I’ve given to you to care for. Don’t hold back from those I’ve given you to love, and watch closely for those times when I’ll give you the opportunity to do something that is easily within your power but is an extraordinary work on my behalf for someone else.”
And that, my friends, is reason number one that I can’t say no… only it’s not a reason anymore. Next?