Yesterday I had an epiphany. I realized that I do not have to be afraid of upsetting my child! “Really?” you might be thinking. “That was your epiphany?” It was a big deal for me because, not only did it free me of the guilt that I almost always feel when my son cries, it also led me to another equally freeing realization: I am afraid of that two-letter word that packs a powerful punch, ‘no.’ And I don’t think I am the only one with such fear.
This phobia of giving negative answers is, I believe, often disguised as political correctness. We don’t want to offend anyone; we don’t want to appear judgmental or intolerant; few are so confident in their convictions that they are willing to stand firm in the face of a tidal wave of disapproval. Rarely are we willing to risk favor in the sight of man for good standing in the sight of God. When I hesitate to lay my son down for his floor time because I know he will cry or rush to give him his next bite of food because I know he doesn’t like to wait, I am going against the convictions I hold as a parent that he needs to learn patience and self-control. Instead, I compromise what I know is good for his character for the sake of momentary peace.
Now that I have been made aware of this flaw in my parenting I am beginning to recognize it in my interactions with other human beings. Matthew 5:37 says to let my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no, no’. This means that when I say something, I mean it; I do not need to swear by anything or provide any additional evidence to emphasize the verity in my statement. When I say I agree with something, then I absolutely agree with it. If I disagree with something, than I absolutely don’t agree with it. More often than not I tend to go along agreeably with what someone is saying for the sake of keeping the peace while inside I am writhing in disagreement. The result is that I return to my home with an unsettled heart and mind; I am upset because I wasn’t willing to stand by my personal convictions for fear of upsetting the other person or because I was uncertain that I would be able to defend what I believe. Both reasons deserve further consideration.
That verse is not condoning argumentation. The Bible promotes living in peace with all men as far as it is possible. However, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles were pansies. They never hesitated to share what they believed, and they stood behind those beliefs even to the point of death. Proverbs says that the wise man chooses to be silent while the fool jumps into every argument he can find. If the matter being discussed is a petty one, it is better for me to remain silent than to nod in affirmation of something with which I actually disagree. However, if the matter is one of strong personal conviction it is possibly worth the price of confrontation. Perhaps the other person needs to reconsider his position though it might be uncomfortable in the moment; if I am not able to defend it perhaps I need to reconsider mine.
The world would be an improved place if we were all willing to ponder our convictions more deeply, consider our words more carefully, and face ‘no’ less tremulously.