No Thank You
Growing up, my siblings and I were pretty stubborn kids. And by pretty stubborn, I mean on multiple occasions my mom left a full cart of groceries in the grocery store, packed out the crying child over her shoulder, and then had my dad go back to get the groceries (though this is a testament to our stubbornness, it is also a testament to my mom’s willpower). I'll admit that I was brutal, but my little brother, Anders, may tie for most headstrong. That kid had phases in which he wouldn’t put on sunscreen, wouldn’t take medications, wouldn’t go outside, wouldn’t go to the dentist—the list goes on.
Somehow though, my little brother has always managed to make his turning things down seem incredibly pleasant. When he was young, my parents would try to get him to eat some sort of new food at the dinner table. Instead of fussing, he would politely say, “No thank you.” There was still no convincing him otherwise, but he was happy while adamant. In our family, the rule eventually became that you had to take a “No Thank You Bite,” meaning you had to take one bite of something before you were allowed to say “No thank you.”
As he’s grown up, Anders has grown (albeit a tad) less stubborn. But he has remained one of the most pleasant stubborn people I’ve ever met. When he makes a decision he maintains his sense of insistency with his natural pleasantness and optimism.
On most family vacations my mom will always be the first to wake up and then try to get everyone else up and going for as many adventures for as much of the day as possible. My older brother and I, even if it is something we don’t want to do, drag our feet about whatever it is we are doing. Sometimes we go and end up enjoying it and sometimes we go and are exhausted and cranky. Anders though, he doesn’t cave. When my mom tries to rally us all toward a hike he doesn’t want to go on or a movie he doesn’t want to see, he will politely decline. “No thank you,” is still his mantra.
The best part of Anders cheerful stubbornness is that he doesn’t ever feel guilty for it. Whenever I say no to things, for whatever reason, there is something in me that feels obligated to go simply because I’ve been asked. Anders doesn’t carry that weight; he just decides whether he wants to or not and then sticks with his answer. This idea of saying what you mean is refreshing to me. We live in a world so eager to please that people are quick to bend their opinions and ideas to meet those of everyone around them. It’s confusing, honestly.
In Matthew 5:37 (MSG), Jesus says, “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” I want to love this. It is so simple and straightforward- like much of Jesus’ character. But in honesty, this is where I feel like I get caught up more often than not. Many times I say, “Sure” when I really want to say, “Heck no, that sounds miserable.” Other times I say, “No, that’s ok, I’m not that hungry,” when all I want to do is make everyone go through a McDonald’s drive-thru with me because I feel like my stomach is eating itself. I want people to like me. I don’t want to be an inconvenience. Whatever the insecurity is, it prevents me from actually meaning what I’m saying.
Jesus knows the human heart well. He knows how desperate we are to feel accepted or respected or powerful. So as simple as the statement is, it is profound to say, “Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’” I want to be better at saying “yes” and “no.” I want to say “yes and amen” to Jesus- to giving grace when it’s inconvenient, to telling truth when it’s awkward, and to loving when it’s hard. And I want to say “no thank you” to my wild heart- to being run by my emotions, to valuing myself based on earthly standards, and to accepting lies the Enemy tries to throw at me.
No thank you. Not today.
Please Note: I asked my mom... she says Anders and I tied for most stubborn sibling. Sorry if you voted and now feel ripped off.