“There is absolutely no way that you can be truly, genuinely, deeply compassionate and generous toward someone if they are violating your boundaries at the same time.” —Brene Brown
“An internal no nulifies an external yes.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself the following question: How much ought someone else’s needs, opinions, and desires dictate what and when I provide? I think the answer to that question is very context-dependent, but there is one guiding principal I’m becoming more comfortable using to evaluate each and every situation:
Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, unless there is a very good reason to do so.
(By the way, fear [of what someone will think, how they will respond, etc.] is never a good reason.)
There are people I don’t want to help, or spend time with, or talk to, and there are circumstances I don’t want to—and shouldn’t— involve myself in. We all have an internal voice which sometimes screams “no” while our external representative nods her head yes, and I believe that voice is trying to tell us something. Something important. Maybe we’re not the best person for the job, or it will tax us beyond our abilities, or we’re being taken advantage of. Maybe the subconscious is trying to bring critical information to the surface of our awareness. But most of us ignore that little voice. We lie. We say yes when we want to say no. We pretend we’re happy to help, when in truth we’re feeling bitter, angry, irritated, resentful, and/or used (all indicators that something isn’t quite right,) because we’ve come to believe, especially in the Christian culture, that we ought to help everyone who asks. But as Jordan Peterson says, Jesus’s death exists as an example of how to heroically accept betrayal and tyranny, not as a directive to victimize ourselves in the service of others.
“’Do onto others as you would have them do unto you’ and ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ are equations, not injunctions. If I am someone’s friend, family member, or lover, then I am morally obligated to bargain as hard on my own behalf as they are on theirs. If I fail to do so, I will end up a slave, and the other person a tyrant. You are not morally obligated to support someone who is making the world a worse place.”
In the end, truth is the most important thing we can offer the world. It’s the only method by which we can wholeheartedly show up for our lives and do the work which God means for us to do. One cannot walk with God while hiding in the garden. Truth, and the act of exposing and expressing ourselves which truth requires, is the only means by which we can genuinely love those around us and make the world a better place.
An honest “no” is better than a dishonest “yes.”