Sometimes I really get tired of trying to communicate to people because many of us only hear what we want to hear. Especially these days when most people get so easily offended and feel like having everything go our way is a right. If I could say it out of kindness, I’d say to them what I say to myself, “Get a clue. Everything doesn’t just fall into your lap because you’re not that important. Most of us will come and go from this world and in three or four generations no one will ever know we existed. Some of our memories won’t even make it beyond two generations. So don’t sweat the small stuff.” Sounds pretty pessimistic for a would be minister right? Well, if you think that then you’ve obviously never read Ecclesiastes. Besides God chewing Job out in the book named after that troubled man, Ecclesiastes is my favorite book in the Hebrew Bible because The Preacher in that book doesn’t pull any punches. He calls this so called life in the apparent material world as he sees it, and for the most part it is pretty vain. I know this might sound like bad news at first, but there is a mystery to this line of thinking that neutralizes some of the side effects of over estimating our personal influence.
Check out this passage from Ecclesiastes 2:16-19:
For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!
Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
In other words he is saying, “I’m going to do all this work trying to be wise then in the end I am going to die like a fool and leave everything I worked for to some kid of mine who might turn out to be an idiot. How pointless?” Hahaha. It’s funny because it is true. This is just one of the examples that “The Preacher”, who many believe was King Solomon, points out that are so true about the things in life that we make a big deal out of to the point of forgetting God, ourselves, and everything that is really real in life. I’m not going to go too much further into this, because I know if you are a thinking person then you probably have already figured this out even if it is hard to kick the vanity habit. All I can say is, do yourself a favor and check this book out. I warn you though. If you read it only once you may get depressed. If you’re going to take this on, you have to read it as many times as it takes until you crack up laughing. I’ve found it to be great medicine if you find yourself getting caught up in The Matrix like I have in the past and get tempted to even now.
Anyway my main point in this post is to call out a major vanity in this world that pretty much throws everything in our lives off kilter. And that thing is the inability for most of us to say “no” to something we know we should say “no” to. Only God knows how many times I have heard people say how they “wanted to say ‘no'” but couldn’t for one reason or the other. Most of these people end up getting mad at the people that they said “yes” to as if the person has Jedi mind powers over them. But more often what they do is pass their frustrations on to someone else who they feel more comfortable disappointing. And that is vanity if it’s anything. More than vanity, it’s kind of evil. Here’s what Jesus had to say on it in Matthew 5:33-37:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Hard to hear, but true as can be. Saying “yes” when you mean “no” is straight up evil. Now I am not saying it makes you a bad person or anything. It just makes you a weak person and all of us have some of that. I’ll admit it. I get weak. I’m a punk sometimes. Woopity doo. No big deal. I’m human. You know how it is. But I’ll let you in on a secret though. Weakness isn’t an excuse, because God’s strength is actually made perfect in weakness. It’s no joke. If you can admit weakness, all sorts of good stuff comes in. Mostly wisdom and insight into why we do the things we do as humans that we don’t actually want to do. For example, here’s the insight I received on why most of us can’t say “no” when we want to. It’s as simple as the fact that we don’t like being told “no”. No, this doesn’t cover every situation. Some issues run too deep, but for the most part that’s why. If you think that’s not the case with you, just wait and see how you feel the next time you ask someone to do something that they even hint at saying, “no” to. If you notice yourself feeling very disappointed and you catch your mind trying to calculate everything you’ve done for them, guess what… So if that is your issue, then learning to say, “no”, is as simple as learning to take “no” for an answer.
Unfortunately, if you have said “yes” when you meant “no” too many times, you are going to go through the withdrawals and so will the people who are used to you going along with everything they say. You may end up finding out some hard truths like your friends and family don’t really care about the real you as much as you have liked to imagine. But not to worry. It might make you feel better to know that you didn’t care about them either. I know, it sounds harsh, but most of the time when we tell people “yes” it is more about us than it is them. This is where the vanity part comes in. Besides not liking to hear “no”, a large part of the reason we say “yes” to some things is because we want the other person to have a certain image of us or want them to like us. So you see, it is all about us. It’s the ego.
It seems like those of us trying to be “spiritual” get caught up in that almost more than anyone else because we get spiritually arrogant. We get convinced we are representing God and we think that if we disappoint people we are somehow making God look bad. Think about that. We confuse niceness with kindness when actually they are two completely different things. Nice is fake. Kindness is real. Niceness makes you look good. Kindness makes you do good no matter what it looks like. People will approve of your niceness. God approves of your kindness. Niceness says, “yes” because that’s what someone wants to hear. Kindness says what someone needs to hear. Yes and no are the same to kindness. So be kind.
If you decide to take this step, you will feel so much better–eventually. You have to watch yourself though. Some people who finally feel the liberty to say “no” go as crazy as a baby Christian trying to save the world. They’ll just run around preaching the “Gospel of No” and start saying “no” indiscriminately. Someone will ask their name and they’ll say, “No. I don’t have a name.” So take it slow. Remember to be kind to yourself and others. It’s no one else’s fault when we get ourselves caught in the trap of saying “yes” too much, so have mercy. If you want to take your kindness a step further, let people know that you are working on yourself and ask for their help and patience as you learn to say, “no” appropriately and set boundaries. If they’re your true friends they’ll understand and they may even appreciate you giving them permission to do the same.