Turn the Other Cheek … or NOT?!
A couple weeks ago, I was asked to speak on very short notice to a Sunday School class at a neighboring church. Bubbling up in my brain was the sound of my knee-jerk people-pleaser “yes.” But luckily, before it crossed my lips, I was able to edit it into, “Yes, is what I want to say, but I need to look at another date a little further into the future, if that is OK with you.”
In the past, it was difficult for me to say “no.” Saying “no” to a request rarely makes the asker feel good. Usually, that person feels hurt, rejected, or let down. Our natural tendency is “to go with the flow” or “not make waves.” So, we become conflict avoiders … some of us a little, but others of us avoid conflict a lot. When others feel bad in response to our actions or behaviors we sometimes have feelings of discomfort ourselves.
This people-pleasing mentality is amplified for Christians. We are called to be “peacekeepers” or “peacemakers.” Forgiveness is a fundamental concept and action of our faith. Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to give our clothes to a thief. Saying “no” seems like a very un-Christian response to someone in need. However, God says “no” many times in the Old Testament, and Jesus said “no” many times as well … to the Pharisees, to Satan, to the demon-possessed man whom he healed, to the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Him but wouldn’t give up his possessions, to the moneychangers in the temple, and to the thief on the cross.
As a psychiatrist and former church elder, I have seen many burnt-out Christians, both leaders and church members, who seem to think that more is better … believing that it is un-Christian to say “no.” Their efforts become scattered, and they always seem to be out of steam. But, like that Energizer bunny, they just keep on doing, doing, doing -- until they crash and burn physically, psychologically, or spiritually. Their motivation is not that the Hold Spirit prompts them to say “yes.” It’s that they are too uncomfortable to say “no.” Satan is always trying to trick you into thinking you are selfish, self-centered, or mean if you say “no.” But loving, caring parents say “no” many times. Just think how often God answers your prayers with a “no.” You will realize that saying “no” is not un-Christianlike, and may actually be the best expression of love in that moment.
Today, before you jump into or are stuck in a “Christian” trap … by blindly saying “yes” and adding more stress to your plate … spend time with God. Pray that you receive both direction and empowerment consistent with His will. In order to know His will … you gotta spend time in His presence. He has a specific plan for you. You need to be purposeful in seeking it with Him and from Him. This is not a job or a task, but rather a beautiful and peaceful privilege. Also, dig inwardly to decipher why you say “yes,” especially when you’re aware you should be saying “no.” Why are you afraid to say “no?” Learning this answer and correcting it will bring amazing freedom to your interactions with others, with God, and in all of life! Whether you say “yes” and “no” for the right reasons, or you respond as a people pleaser is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Gracious and Holy God, I know that You designed a path for my life. I pray, Father, that You reveal this pathway to me … and that You give me the strength and courage to follow it. Help me seek Your approval, not the approval of those who make requests of me. Empower me, Father, and let me see that I am powered by You. Let me not focus my efforts on simply doing more, but on doing what You want. Help me today, Lord, to do what is within my ability to further Your Kingdom. I pray in the name of the One You sent to forgive, refresh, and empower me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31
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