In the musical “Oklahoma” a young woman belts out, “I Can’t Say No.” For this gal, it was attentive guys she couldn’t refuse, but for many of us, it is the unreasonable requests from domineering or charming people that cause us to buckle.
How do we live at peace with unreasonable/controlling people and yet keep our integrity and inner peace, especially when those people happen to be family and friends? Some people feel mean when they say, “No.” Others fear losing the relationship or dread the wrath or disapproval of this person. They feel selfish to refuse a request, but angry and used if they say yes. In other words, they feel trapped.
Let me offer some suggestions to help when someone knocks the breath out of you with an unreasonable or unwanted request or demand; use CPR.
- Clarify: Reflect back to them what you’ve heard them say. “So, you want me to ….” That way you are sure you heard correctly and it gives them a chance to hear their request and perhaps recognize the unreasonable nature of their expectation.
- Pause: Tell them you’ll get back with them. Even if they need an answer right now, tell them you’ll get back with them shortly. Give yourself time to gain perspective and seek God’s counsel. To
gain perspective ask yourself, “Would I ask someone to do this for me?” What is my motivation in yielding to this request when I don’t really want to: faith that it will please God, or guilt or fear of this person’s disapproval (Gal. 1:10)? God does not use guilt to motivate (Romans 12:1).
- Refrain: Determine your personal limits. What can you willingly give without regret or resentment (2 Cor. 9:7)? What can you not do without resentment?
When practicing your CPR remember:
- Trust God: Determine to walk by faith in God. That which comes from faith, pleases God, bears fruit and is rewarded. What is done out of fear of man or guilt comes from the flesh and profits nothing (Jn. 6:63). Either choice will impact our character and the person we become, one for the better, the other for the worse. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe,” (Pro. 29:5).
- The outcome: When you yield to unreasonable requests, then you must endure the consequences that go with your choices. Those choices not only impact you, but those who love you. And the consequences to your character can be lasting. Avoiding conflict is not the same thing as peace.
- The Owner: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20). All we have belongs to God. That includes my time, talents and energy. We should seek Him in how we manage these precious resources. If you allow demanding people to take them, they not only rob you, they rob God.
Whether the request is couched in sweetness or demanded in harshness, remember, you are not trapped. If Christ is your Lord, then your “no” is just as loving and good as a “yes.” In fact better, if that is what your Lord has led you to do. When you are free to say no, then your “yeses” will be sweeter and mean more when freely given. If you make sure you are saying “Yes,” to your Lord Jesus, then your “noes” to others will please Him and bless others. See Gal. 5:1; 1 Peter 3:14-15.
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