Yes & No

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No” be “No,” lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12)

Recently, William asked if I would be willing to play a board game with him but I was busy at the time so I gave him the canned “Dad” response—“We’ll see.”  This satisfied him for the moment and off he ran to find something else to do.  Then, I overheard him talking with Ben, telling him that I would be playing a game with him later and would he like to play as well.

“What did he actually say?”

“We’ll see.”

“That’s ‘Dad’ for no.”

Ultimately, we DID play the board game, but it appears that whether I intended it to be that way or not, the boys had learned to interpret my words in different ways.

The people we interact with learn our patterns of speech and behavior, and whether the two line up. It’s a natural part of human psychology, to find patterns in our environment and use them to predict future interactions. This means that if we desire to be known as a person that can be counted on, as a person of integrity, we must carefully choose our words and then follow through with our commitments. 

It is very easy to over-promise and under-perform, especially when we are feeling pressure to commit to something that we don’t really want to do in the first place. You feel guilty so you agree to something, and then procrastinate because you don’t want to do it.  Then you feel guilty for procrastinating, and you rush to get it done at the last minute.  That’s not how I want to live my life, but I’ve found myself in that situation so many times!

It would be much better if I just did as James instructed…Let my “Yes” be “Yes” and “No” be “No.”  What might that look like?

  • No — Sometimes we just need to say “No” and that can be very hard to do if we don’t want to upset someone.  In some cases, we must say “No” to something that is good and worthwhile so we can say “Yes” to something that is more important. To accomplish this, though, you must have a very clear understanding of your priorities, so you can evaluate between things.
  • Yes — If you do commit to something, follow through!  It doesn’t help if you say you will do something but then flake out on the person asking for your assistance, and it just makes you look bad. 
  • Maybe — There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let me get back to you later.”  This prevents you from making a commitment before you’ve had a chance to consider it.  But if you do this, make sure to follow up with the person and let them know your decision.

It is important that people be able to trust you and your word. It goes beyond social standing and responsibility. As a believer, each of us is a witness to Jesus Christ. Everything we do should point people to him.  If you have gained a reputation as someone who cannot be counted on with small things, how will they ever trust you with subjects of eternal consequence?

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being a God that can always be counted on.  Your word is faithful and your promises sure.  Help us to follow your example…to be trustworthy people of integrity.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

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