Saying yes; saying no

It's a common scenario: someone calls to ask if you will do something. It may be a request to be parent manager for your daughter's soccer team or on the long-range planning committee of your church or to bring brownies to the neighborhood party or to speak at a professional meeting. What do you say? Yes? No? 

The book study group in my neighborhood discussed these very sorts of questions yesterday. For the last couple weeks we've been reading Practicing Our F aith: A Way of Life for a Searching People, edited by Dorothy Bass. The chapter we discussed yesterday was titled "Saying Yes and Saying No," by M. Shawn Copeland.

Copeland writes, "The choices and decisions we make have consequences. [For example], [w]hen a student registers for a college course, she or he rules out the other courses offered at the same time...Saying yes and saying no are companions in the process of constitutiong a whole and holy life." She continues, "Learning when and how, to what, and to whom to give our yes and our no is a lifelong project. It is learning to live not merely in dull balance or tedious moderation but in passionate, disciplined choice and action. It is learning to find support and challenge, courage and correction, as we live out our choices. Sustaining and realizing our yes from day to day is only possible when negative and destructive behaviors are supplanted by positive and generative ones, when we redeem the routines of our daily lives, when we choose and carry out commitments that give and support life. Prayer, examination of conscience, and participation in small communities are three acts that can help us in this practice."

Copeland generously provides some questions for reflection to help us more wisely choose our yes's and our no's. Here are several:

  • Do I understand that each choice I make influences the choices I can make in the future?
  • Do I understand that in saying yes to every invitation or opportunity, every task or assignment, I limit the possibilities for my growth in other areas?
  • Am I afraid that saying no may require me to give up more than I had bargained for, or to grow in unfamiliar ways?
  • Do I have adequate spiritual nourishment or emotional support for the yes I seek to say?
  • What kind of person am I making of myself in my daily decisions?