The power of No — resistance is not futile

A while ago, I passed by a guy wearing a black t-shirt with the one-word sentence on it: “No.” I was tempted to ask him a question that he would have to answer with a “Yes.” But I said, “No,” to myself and walked on.

“No” is the most powerful word that we have at our disposal. Just watch any two-year-old. She’ll use it to great effect, wielding all kinds of power over much older, stronger, and wealthier people than herself.

“No” is the word that starts revolutions. We say No to conditions, to ideas, to structures of power, to people, to all kinds of things. That initial No is essential to the turn, the change that ultimately leads to a whole new string of Yeses.

But the most important No that we have to say is to ourselves. There are so many destructive thoughts, practices, desires, expectations, dispositions, habits, and other attachments that we have for ourselves that we need the personal revolution that a simple but well-timed No can provide.

No to that second helping. No to that drink, because I’ll be driving. No to that unneeded purchase. No to that lustful thought. No to the fear that keeps me from doing what I need to be doing. No to that video game or that time-wasting internet surfing. No to that abusive relationship. No to that angry retort that will cut the other person down to size. No to holding that grudge.

In the Bible, Paul wrote about this essential nay-saying in his letter to Titus — For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.  [Titus 2:11-12]

Of course, the purpose of No is to get to Yes. And not to just one Yes, but to a whole string of new, life-giving Yeses.

And that leaves us with what Paul wrote to the Corinthians — For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. [2 Corinthians 1:20]

A No here and there to myself to get in on a whole string of God’s Yeses? Now, that’s something I can easily say Yes to.

In the Christian calendar, there are whole seasons of saying, “No,” to ourselves. Not just Lent, even Advent was originally a time of fasting, leading up to the celebration of Christmas, with its 12 days of feasting. As we draw closer to the super-consumerist and overindulging seasons of Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas, why not start practicing of saying, “No,” so that you’ll be ready for the incredible Yes of Christ on Christmas.