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Learn when to say no to yourself

by Christian Michael

August 19, 2013

Today's society is the society of "yes."

Is it okay to do something if it feels good? Yes.

Can I make money at the moral expense of others? Yes.

Can we invade other countries so I can feel safer? Yes.

Can I live in massive debt? Yes.

Can we keep piling on new laws and programs regardless of the liberties we lose or the money we waste? Yes.

Can we keep living stupid? Yes.

It's easy to keep saying yes; especially when yes is so much fun. Not only fun, but it's nice. Who wants to keep saying "no" all the time? Grumps, that's who. Terrible, angry, old-man grumps who just want to ruin the fun of all the young people, keep them from having fun and living an exciting life.

Or, perhaps, just perhaps, the older and/or wiser are just trying to keep us from drama, pain and hurt? Maybe some people, old or young, are just smart enough to look at history and the principles upon which all action is derived and future consequences of said action is predictable, and try to head off more severe negative consequences than just the simple emotional hurt of being told "no."

But who says "no" most?

Probably our parents. Why would parents tell us "no" constantly?

Can I touch the iron? No.

Can I eat dessert for dinner? No.

Can I run into the street? No.

Can I play in the thunderstorm? No.

Do parents just like saying "no?" I'd bet most parents want to be able to say yes, but it's got to be for the right reason.

Can I clean up my room? Yes.

Can I go the library? Yes.

Can I go play with my best friend at her house (someone you already trust)? Yes.

Now, there are many parenting groups who say parents should find every opportunity to say yes, and to guide their children to more "yes" activities. Hey, that's great. Positive incentive is always better than negative consequence, but when a child just doesn't want anything you want to say yes to, that means saying "no."

"No," because to let that child do as they please might mean harm, loss of health and loss of peace. Perhaps saying no to "big" ideas that sound wonderful -- like stacking tables and chairs atop each other to jump from into the bathtub -- is the only way to keep people safe from what they're ignorant of.

People today are very ignorant of the ultimate cost the loss of our liberties will one day mean, either to ourselves or our children. People are ignorant of how much money is honestly wasted on programs people neither need nor ultimately would want if they truly understood how it would impact -- or fail to impact -- them.

The principle of saying "no" isn't about denying life, but denying unhealthy activities in life. It's saying no to self-destructive habits, to uncontrolled spending, to the surrender of liberty to those who would abuse it in their own favor, to bad things for your kids, to letting other people do for you what you should do for yourself, to taking money from people who don't believe in what you believe in order to do what you believe ... you name it, people are constantly telling you just to say "Yes."

The hardest person to say "no" to, but the person to whom we should say "no" most? Ourselves.

Self denial and self discipline are easily the most difficult things for people to learn. Politicians can't cut spending, even when it's obviously the best thing to do. We can't stop eating food bad for us, or drinking too much and getting ourselves in legal or relational trouble. We can't stop dating that abusive loved one or continue inviting painful drama into our lives. All because we won't tell ourselves "no." Saying no to friends you know bring out the worst in you. No to habits that hurt. No to our selfish desires that come at the cost of others.

Were I a betting man, I'd wager the vast majority of our bad decisions that hurt other people come first from a lack of self control, self denial, and otherwise telling ourselves "no."

Will you learn self control? To deny yourself so that others might prosper? To pursue peace above selfish satisfaction?

I hope you do. It won't be easy, and you'll never master it fully, but every day spent learning better self control means better decisions that affect other people, because it shows you're will to put yourself second to the welfare of other people and to the welfare of a given community. It shows that you're willing to look at things honestly, and not deceive yourself into thinking a particular action will be the best action merely because you "feel" it will be.

There so much value to saying no, so that those times you can say yes, it means more!


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