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How I’m learning to be a real yes man


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Cecilia Pigg - published on 04/11/23

One parable can remind us to always follow through on our promises.

“Sure, I can get you a cup of coffee!”
“Yes, I’ll read you that book in one minute.”
“Yeah, we can do that project — one sec.”

One hour passes and I still haven’t gotten a cup of coffee for my husband. I haven’t read that
book to my toddler. And then I hear, ”OK, it is later Mom! Are you ready to make this life-size replica of the Grinch out of cardboard and plywood with me? You said ‘yeah!’”

Wait, what did I agree to?!

I said “yes, I will help you” three different times to three different people in the span of one hour, and then did nothing to help any of them.

You know the second son in that parable that Jesus tells about the father and his two sons? The one who says, “Sure, dad, I will go work in the vineyard for you” and then just flat out doesn’t do it?

I’ve always identified a lot with that son. I have developed a reflex over the years where I say
exactly what you want to hear — and then I don’t always follow through. Or I sort of follow
through, but I do so begrudgingly and halfheartedly. Let me point out that Jesus does not hold the second son up as a good example. Instead, he shows that the first son is more admirable. (The first son is the one who says “No, I won’t work” but then he changes his mind and does what his father asked.)

So, I am guilty of saying yes very quickly, only to just not follow through later on. I’m in the thick of a continual battle fighting to be an authentic human being — where my words match both my actions and my intentions. In that battle, three phrases have helped me charge forward.

3 Phrases to help

“Whenever you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.” I heard this recently, I don’t remember where, but it has helped me check my priorities. I ask myself, “If I say yes to that invitation, what am I saying no to?” Or, “If I say yes to help that person with that project, who am I saying no to?” Then I can better realize who I am saying yes and no to, and find patterns.

Maybe I need to say more nos to helping friends because my yeses to them mean I have been saying a lot of nos to my kids and husband. Maybe I have been saying a lot of yeses to relaxing and downtime in the evenings, while my nos to chores and work in the evenings are making life more difficult during the day.

The second phrase that helps me is “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no” (Matthew 5:37).

Jesus talks about swearing and taking oaths in the Sermon on the Mount, and his simple phrase “let your yes mean yes” is one I keep on replay in my head. I want to say yes fully and freely every time. I also want to say no and mean it every time too — trying to discipline my children brings my inconsistency painfully in focus. Consistency helps kids feel safe and actually helps kids learn, while inconsistency does nothing at best, and at worst, undermines everything you’re trying to do. And kids will pounce on inconsistency in a second. As is true in many areas, my kids help me see where I need to work on myself.

The final phrase or phrase combination that helps me is: “find the root and kill your will.”

I have to ask myself, what’s at the root of my “yes with no follow through”? Is it people-pleasing, laziness, or just plain old selfishness? All three? Something else entirely? One root I confront often is that selfishness one — I just don’t want to do what other people want me to do. Their needs seem a lot less important than my needs and my agenda. So, I try to practice “killing my will” in little ways to help curb my natural tendency to prioritize only what I want.

Is all of this working for me? Some days I make more progress than others. So, continue to
practice and pray:

Jesus, I want to be the best combination of the two brothers in your parable. I want to let my yes mean yes, and do your will, not mine, in every moment. Help me please, and unplug my ears so I will listen to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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