Make Your “Yes” Stronger Than Your “No”

Matt Wilson of Under30Media writes:

Saying no is a muscle that needs to be exercised. If you don’t practice it, you’ll never get good at it. Train your mind to say “no” because whatever you do instead needs to be more important. Does this mean more time with friends and family? Time to take care of yourself and hit the gym? Time to focus on mission-critical tasks? Whatever you are saying “yes” to instead has to be strong.

(From 10 Best Ways to Turn Down Time-Wasters.) That article is about prioritizing entrepreneurs’ time – but the principle Wilson has in mind applies to more than just time management.

I wish students from a very early age were taught the concept of opportunity cost, the understanding that every choice closes off other options. Christ tells us “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” The person who is perpetually torn between his commitment and other things he wishes he could do, has not yet counted the [opportunity] cost. Double-mindedness makes him unstable in all his ways.

A man who’s faithful to his wife doesn’t have his attention focused on saying No to every temptation his wandering eyes present; his attention is on the woman he has said Yes to. An alcoholic who is hanging on, white-knuckled, insisting he is not going to take that drink, is investing his heart and energy in the chain that he wants to be free of; he’s making it more and more part of his identity, and unless he can break that cycle and find something else to put at the center, he is going to keep on falling. The Orthodox Christian tradition uses the Jesus Prayer (“Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”) as a tool to turn the direction of our thoughts, intentionally make the Person of Christ the center of our attention, and make our Yes stronger than our No.

If we live aiming at saying Yes to the things we have put at the center of our lives, then we may regret things we can’t also say Yes to – but those regrets don’t define or drive us. Because at the end of the day we have been faithful to the people and the promises that do define us.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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