What if it worked that way? Can you imagine? It would be the best $5 we'd ever spent.
"Doctor, I keep smoking, even though my physician says it's going to kill me."
"Every time my mother calls, I hang up feeling guilty."
"I think about going for a run, but watch re-runs instead...I spend more money than I make...I eat Doritos instead of broccoli...I'm tempted to cheat on my taxes."
If I called that imaginary therapist today, here's what I'd say: "I feel sad and powerless when I can't do everything someone else wants me to do for them."
Here are some things I'd stop doing: Saving Christmas cards that I'm never going to answer. Worrying about the committees I'm not serving on. Wondering if I should sponsor a child or give more to the Red Cross. Thinking I ought to be writing to my congressional representative.
The list could go on and on, but here's the one that gets to me the most: Feeling guilty when I say, no, to my children. Sometimes it's when they ask for more stuff, even when I know they don't need it. Even worse is when they ask me to save them from their own mistakes.
The truth is, I want to say, yes. It would be so much easier to say, yes, even if it would be wrong for them or for me. Whenever it happens, when I say, no, whatever the reason, I tend to feel guilty. I fret. "Is my no valid?" I wonder.
Jesus says, "Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37).
The "more," for me, is the worrying and wondering and thinking and fretting. Maybe my yes and my no are not enough. Maybe my yes should be no or my no yes. Maybe I don't have enough; I ought to have more to give.
Maybe it is not just what I have but who I am that is not enough.
That's not what God says. In the gospel we heard on Sunday, the story of the baptism of Jesus, "a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:22b). As a wise friend pointed out to me, Jesus had not yet done anything. His public ministry was only just on the verge of beginning. The Father's affirmation was not for the Son's doing, but for his being. He is loved and the Father is well pleased because of who he is.
And so it is with us. I think I spend so much time worrying and wondering and the like because I believe that I am lovable for what I do, for my yeses. If I can give you what you want, you will be pleased with me. It stands to reason then, if I say no you will not love me.
To what do we, you and I, say, yes, when, perhaps, we ought to say, need to say, no?