“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)
You might read this verse and wonder, “Duh, what else could my ‘yes’ be?” But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we should admit that a lot of us say “yes” or “no” and don’t really mean what we say.
Maybe we say “yes” out of fear of hurting or disappointing someone in our life. Maybe we say “no” because we’re afraid in a different way; afraid to put ourselves out in the world and take on a new experience of some sort. In reality, there are many times and situations when our “yeses” and “nos” don’t necessarily match what’s in our hearts. I see this sometimes when people are asked to serve at a parish in some way.
There are many who say yes because they want to help and are able to help. Their “yes” is a joyful “yes.” Their words and their actions match. These people are at peace and are living true to themselves and to God’s call for them.
Then there are those that say “yes” even when they don’t have their heart in a project or a ministry. Or perhaps they do love the vision of what they are being invited to help with but they don’t have the time or the physical or emotional energy to take something new on. These people say “yes” but their bodies, souls, or lives are telling them “no.” They are torn between wanting to help and not being able to help. Their words and actions are in conflict with their abilities. They are not at peace with their “yes.”
Some people react with “no” before they’ve even considered what they are being invited to help with. Maybe they’ve been burned by overcommitment before. Maybe the timing of the request is bad for them. Maybe they’re tired or hungry, or really stressed out. Or, maybe their less-virtuous self is blurting out their “no” before they’ve actually discerned whether God is calling them to serve in a new way. This person isn’t at peace with their “no.” They often feel guilty about it and are using their “no” like a shield of protection fueled by their negative emotions.
Then there are those who honestly assess their situation and God’s will for them and come to realize that the right answer for them is “no.” “No, I can’t serve on that committee at this time. I’m already overcommitted” or “No, I can’t help with that event this year. I need to spend that time with my family.” This person is at peace with their “no” because they recognize what their limitations are and have prayed about what God is inviting them to at this point in their life.
But these “yeses” and “nos” don’t just apply to volunteering. It’s also true of our faith lives. When we proclaim to be Catholic and we don’t at least try to live what we proclaim, our “yes” doesn’t mean “yes.” Or maybe the opposite is true; we live a life of faith but deny it with our words because we’re afraid of what people will say or even just because it feels too personal to share.
How To Stay Joyful and Confident
So, how can we let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”? How can we stay in a state of Joyful Yes and Confident No and avoid the state of Reluctant Yes and Reactive No?
Here are a few questions to aid your discernment when faced with a Yes or No situation:
- Is it possible? Does my life and health support my participation in this?
- Is it good? Will this be a blessing to my life or others’ lives?
- Does it match my beliefs?
- Is God inviting me to this right now?
- Will my yes or my no cause me more stress or feelings of internal conflict?
- Are there outside stimuli that make it hard for me to be objective in my discernment at the moment? (fatigue, hunger, emotional distress, physical illness)
- Am I choosing my yes or no out of stubbornness or pride? Am I being open to the Holy Spirit at work in my life?
Jesus’ words to us in Matthew’s Gospel aren’t just telling us to be truthful. They’re telling us to live truth, to be truth. After all, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When we live in Truth, we live in Him. And that’s the most peaceful place to be.
Copyright 2019 Laura B. Nelson