“The kindest thing you can ever say is no.”
The first time I heard that, I laughed. I hate saying no.
So instead I say yes to everything. But when I say yes to everything, my insincere "yes" robs me of integrity. Let me explain.
Saying No Teaches us Integrity
When we say yes and don’t mean it, we end up letting people down. A friend told me that she would provide gifts for all the leaders and graduating seniors in Greek InterVarsity. When she didn’t show up to the event with the gifts, my seniors and leaders were left with nothing. Later, she offered to help again but I immediately dismissed her offer. I felt like I could no longer trust her.
We’ve all had that friend that says they’ll meet us for lunch/a workout/etc… and then they cancel last minute. And, if we’re honest, we’ve probably been that friend to someone else. The hard truth is, when we say yes and we don’t mean it, our words lack integrity.
Jesus warns us of this in the Sermon of the Mount. He says,
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool... And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (Matthew 5:33-37)
The point of Jesus’ hyperbole is that we don’t need to make oaths because our word should be enough. If people can trust that when we say yes that we mean yes, then they can trust us.
Saying No Allows us to Focus
When we are confident that God is calling us to something, we need to say yes and no wisely so that we can wholeheartedly pursue what God is calling us to do. We can confidently say yes to things that align with God’s call for us. And we can freely say no in order to pursue that call without distraction.
After a Bible study leader training, I asked a fraternity man to co-lead his fraternity Bible study. He said, yes. Later that week, he came and asked, “We already have a great Bible study leader and there are so many fraternities without Bible studies. Can I help a new fraternity start a Bible study?” He had a clear calling to start Bible studies throughout the Greek System. But to follow that calling, he had to say no first.
When we allow ourselves to say no without guilt, we can freely say yes to God’s call in our life.
Saying No Allows Someone Else to Say Yes
When we say no, it allows someone else to say yes. In college, I did not want my little sister to take over the Kappa Kappa Gamma Bible study. I thought that I could lead it better than she could. My Greek InterVarsity staff convinced me that my exec position with Greek IV would be enough to keep me busy. He encouraged me to trust my little sister. My little led the Bible study differently than I would have- in a good way. Those differences allowed more people to attend the Bible study. And as she led, she grew as a leader.
If we refuse to say no, we get in the way of others having the opportunity to be part of God’s kingdom.
Free to Say Yes... or No
The next time you are offered an opportunity- whether it’s a new job, a second (or third, or fourth) leadership position on campus, or to a pick up basketball game with friends- make sure you can say your yes or your no with integrity. Slow down and consider if this is the best use of your time. When our yes is truly our yes and our no is truly our no, we win the trust of others and we are free to follow God into all that he has for us.