I was talking recently with our staff and we all had experiences with students or ministers saying “yes” to things and not following through or simply not replying to say “yes” or “no” at all.
Here are a few thoughts on why I believe this is a problem.
Letting Your “Yes Be Yes”
Jesus taught His followers to let their “yes be yes,” and to honor their word (Matthew 5:37). It is not a little thing to say “yes” to things and then back out. I really believe it is a sin. Jesus did.
Therefore, when it happens it needs to be confessed to God and to the person(s) you said “yes” to. There are all kinds of real reasons to back out of commitments. Sometimes there are external factors that change your commitments. This is reality. Still it is sin, and should be confessed.
Often, however, people back out of commitments because of internal factors. They just don’t know how to say “no.”
Why Won’t You Say No?
I really encourage everyone who backs out of a commitment to really examine why they did not say “no” in the first place.
Is it that you’re a people pleaser? Do you fear disappointing people? Do you have an unrealistic understanding of your capacity? Do you get too easily overwhelmed? Are your priorities mixed up? Are you too prideful?
Like any sin, we should examine our heart to consider the root of the sin. We need to see what is going on inside in order to bring it to the Lord and to others in hope of real repentance.
Not Replying Is Replying
When it comes to commitments, some folks take the easy way out by not saying “yes” or “no,” but they do not realize that not replying is replying. You communicate just as much by not replying as you do by replying. What does it say to others when you say neither yes or no? It says something, and it is largely up to the interpretation of the person to decide.
Why not rather say “yes” or “no” to be clear so the other person does not draw false conclusions? Or if your are unsure or need more time of information to decide, reply to say just that. Then there is clarity.
Leaving Your Options Open
Often people do need more time or more information to decide. That’s fine, if you let others know that you need more time. More often, however, people do not say “yes” or “no” because they want to leave their options open. They are waiting for a better opportunity. This, in my opinion is an epidemic in our day.
Those who leave their options open show that they do not have a very clear picture of what their priorities are. When you have priorities, goals, and a clear vision for your life, it is relatively easy to say “yes” or “no” to things. We need to prioritize our lives to make choices easier.
Saying “no” to one things means your giving a better”yes” to something else (a greater priority).
Learn To Say Yes
I’ll end by saying that some folks don’t need to learn to say “no.” They, instead, need to learn to say “yes.” Those who want to leave their options open all the time are basically selfish, waiting for the coolest thing to do in the moment instead of making choices based on convictions and priorities.
Sadly, in college ministry, this is often the problem of men in the ministry. Women say “yes” and take positions of leadership in the ministry while men float around with their options open. Dudes, this has to change. Saying “yes” is part of becoming a man. Let’s all grow up a bit and learn to give a true “Yes” or “No.”
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.