“In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong” – Matthew 5:36-37 (MSG)
My husband and I just recently got ourselves a pair of finger tattoos. When we showed them to people their reaction was, “whoa, that’s permanent”. They were shocked that we would mark our bodies with a choice that we can’t go back from. Which they are so totally right about, BUT…
The vows I spoke on my wedding day are just as permanent and binding as the ink on my finger. And that got me thinking about how little importance we actually put on the words we speak, not much less the vows we give.
I think we have forgotten the importance and weight of our words, and the power they hold. We throw around promises, vows, emotions, and commitments without any respect for their seriousness. We don’t mean what we say. And we certainly don’t say what we mean. Because if we did, we would be far more careful with our words.
Believe me when I say I speak from experience. I used to tell people that I would go out with them on the weekend or on a trip, when I knew that I had zero intention of actually going. Even though I wanted to say no, I said yes out of guilt and then would later flake out with an excuse.
Or I would say no to events I desperately wanted to go to because I felt too afraid they wouldn’t like me. I went ahead and left myself out before that false reality could ever play out.
I was unreliable, flaky, and honestly a coward. And in hindsight it cost me so many friendships that could’ve flourished had I said what I felt. And I still very much struggle with this, I’m a self-proclaimed recovering people-pleaser.
It doesn’t sound like such a nasty thing to do; but over time when you cultivate the habit of caving in and coping out, you become a wishy-washy worm of person. It is the smallest habits that chip away at your character. They may be small and insignificant up close but over time they do the most damage. Anyone ever had termites?
Everyone wants to be the person that is helpful, capable, and enjoyable. But, when we begrudgingly say and do things that are not in alignment with our hearts and soul, I don’t think that pleases God in the slightest.
Because God looks at our heart. When we are asked to do something and our hearts say, “no this is not right for me”, but we cave in and say yes for * insert literally whatever reason*, essentially we are doing three things.
First we are lying, we definitely do not want to do what we have agreed to do (volunteering, signing up for a project, an outing, or whatever it is that you allow yourself to get pulled into). Yet we agree, regardless of how inconvenient or poorly timed the task can be. We are lying to those around us to not disappointment, even though it comes at the price of inner disappointment. How can you ever rely on yourself to make the hard choices that define your character, if you can’t be honest in smaller choices.
Your worth does not come from the approval of others. Say it again, your worth does not come from the approval of others. Saying no to a situation does not make you any less of a joy to be around. It’s okay to be honest. You might disappoint someone, but you are not hurting them. Read that again, telling someone no is not hurting them. Or saying yes to someone does not make you a burden.
Their emotions are their responsibility as your emotions are your responsibility. You are responsible for your words; for being honest, for making it known that your yes means yes and your no means no. They are responsible for how they manage your response.
BIG alert here though: This is not an excuse to be rude, mean, or avoidant. It doesn’t mean that you say no to your responsibilities. It doesn’t mean you flip the bird and tell people to bug off, or for you to keep yourself hidden from the world and say no to every single thing (there are some things you will have to do even if you don’t want to).
You can be kind and say no. You can kindly say no. You can bravely put yourself out there. You can join the party. If you are looking for permission to be honest; this is it. My only suggestion is to lather your answer with grace. Always with grace.
Second, we are living by fear. We may justify caving in because it was “the nice thing to do” but our actions were motivated and manipulated by things that are not good, holy, or kind: fear of letting someone down, fear of looking selfish, fear of not being accepted.
There is no fear in love. And making our decisions from a place of fear, compliance, or manipulation is anything but love, as much as we can justify it to be so. God is constantly searching our hearts, not our words. When we cave into other people’s expectations of us, or the misconception we have of ourselves, we are not living in love but rather living in a spirit of fear.
Living this way will leave your heart and mouth misaligned, but more than that, it’ll make you bitter towards the person or situations for which you caved for and then disappointed in yourself for allowing it to happen.
Fear will steal the joy from the people and situations that you love and replace it with bitterness. Think of that friend that is always demanding too much of your time, energy, and resources. You can never say no to them, so instead of saying no to their constant need for your time, you get bitter towards them and the relationship goes sour and fallout soon happens. We’ve all been there.
Be honest with them. That is literally what friendships are based on. And if you can’t be honest with your friends, I think you need to find new friends.
Third, we are becoming untrustworthy. When our words do not line up with what our heart says, we become inconsistent and unreliable; people will not know where they stand with me and they will not know if they can rely on me. They will always second guess whether choices and actions are authentic.
Relationships can only grow and mature in authenticity and vulnerability. Doubt has no place in building a relationship. When people come to you, they should know that your yes’s mean yes and your no’s mean no. They should always know where you stand.
This is why I am not a fan of sarcasm. You never know where you stand with the person, it is hard to distinguish joke from insult because there is always truth behind every joke. It is an excuse to be mean and passive aggressive in the name of humor. If you can’t be funny without always being sarcastic, then your not funny, you’re just mean. Sorry, someone had to say it.
So where does this leave us? Well, start by only saying what you truly mean. If you do not mean it, then just don’t say it.
Let’s become people whose word is solid. That when we talk, people know that we mean what we say because it is backed up by genuine action, and that we only ever say what we mean. There is no falsehood in our words, and that our compliments are sincere. In situations where we need to make clear our boundaries, people will take us at our words and respect what we have said because we have been consistent.
In a culture that throws around accusations and promises carelessly, be the one who chooses their words wisely and then backs them up by living them out faithfully.