Yes. No. Two simple little words that are so difficult to say. If you’ve paid any attention to politics, you probably know how much politicians struggle to say these two words. Instead, 99.99% of the time, they look to find an excuse and explain away something they said or used to believe. But are we much better?
When someone asks us to do something, or invites us to an event we don’t want to go to, what do we do? Do we just say, “No thanks,” or do we try and make up some excuse for why we can’t go? I don’t know about you, but more often than not, I create an excuse.
Or, we may be more ambiguous with our answers, allowing ourselves to have an escape route out of a situation in case we don’t feel like following through later. We don’t to commit ourselves on one hand, but we also don’t want to offend our friend, coworker, family member, or whomever the case may be, by turning them down. We feel trapped, so we’ll make excuses.
And yet, this is exactly what God condemns:
“Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned” (James 5:12).
Clearly, this is an old problem. Jews in Jesus’ time used to swear by the Earth, which wasn’t as big a deal as swearing by God, and therefore, wasn’t an oath they had to keep. Just like how we make excuses today, we like to have an escape route.
Instead, we should let our yes be yes, and our no be no. If we say we are going to do something, we should. If we can’t or won’t do something , we should just say no.
Of course, the way our culture operates, just saying no often isn’t enough for most people. They want a reason. Anticipating this, we often give a reason for our “no” even before being asked, even if that reason isn’t the real reason. We want to make our refusal seem justified. We need to stop doing this, and simply let our no be no.
Even if we do have a legitimate reason for saying “no” to something, more often than not, we would still be better off keeping that to ourselves for a couple reasons.
- People won’t believe your reason
Since it is so common in our culture to make up excuses for why we can’t do something or go somewhere, it’s likely that many won’t fully believe you when you do have a prior obligation. This is the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” effect.
Because many won’t believe you, it will at the very least make you look like an excuse-maker, and will also likely lead to #2.
- People will try and talk you out of your decision
If you give a reason for why you can’t do something, then that reason becomes vulnerable to scrutiny. People will naturally compare your excuse with their request. Was your excuse good enough to justify turning them down? Or should you have sacrificed to meet their request?
This can all lead to a lot of misunderstanding and potential hurt and dishonesty. It is much better if we simply let our yes be yes, and our no be no, forsaking excuses in general.
Do you find yourself making excuses? Do you struggle to let your yes be yes and your no be no? What do you do to combat this struggle?