In an article written for the New York Times, Pulitzer prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti said it took him nearly 80 years to learn the golden word NO. He had earlier been an optimist, thinking “no” too negative. He discovered only in advanced age the deception of a “sunny” affirmative. Indeed such a “yes” could be cowardly, “full of compromises and illusions.” He discovered the strength and honesty of a clear “no.” While it could lose friends, it would liberate the individual using it. San Diego Union editorial, 5/30/91
How many time have we agreed to a request even though we didn’t have time or interest? How many parties have party-goers attend against their interests? Just to keep from hurting someone’s feelings?
That says nothing of the value of “no” when tempted to disobey God. When God warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, he meant exactly that: NO; not “Maybe” or “Not yet.” A lot of our problems with resisting temptation comes from saying it with a hyphen, not an exclamation point!
Every parent should early learn the value of “no” when responding to their children. Every child needs to be denied with strong refusals. Jesus certainly used negatives when warning his children. When he proscribed the sins of Mark 7:20-23, he demanded that his people say a clear, strong NO to evil. When in Matthew 7:21-23 he warned his people not to come before him with a form of religion deprived of its substance, he demanded that we OBEY his teachings.
Truly, personally saying no to our self-will and ego isn’t easy. And telling our friends to say no to theirs may not make us friends. But where God sees merit in refusals and denials, are we to consider contradictory affirmations meritorious?