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One of our core values as Latter-day Saints is honesty (the 13th article of faith begins, “We believe in being honest,” right?). We know that it’s dishonest to lie, steal, and cheat, but have you ever considered that it might also be dishonest to say “yes” when you really mean “no”? For example, if someone asks you if you’d be willing to do something and you say yes when truthfully you are not willing to do so, you are being dishonest. It’s so tricky—we want to please, and we want to help; we want to do our share, and we want to do what’s right. I know that there have been times when I really wish I felt free to say “no” (and feel at peace about it), but I found myself saying “yes” yet again. Unsurprisingly, this pattern of repeatedly saying “yes” can cause problems in one’s emotional wellness, communication, and even in relationships. I do not intend to suggest that we stop going out of our way to serve others, or to always say “no,” but I think it’s important to examine why always saying “yes” can be harmful, and to look at why it’s okay, even honorable, to sometimes say “no.”
A dishonest “yes” breeds stress and resentment.
I have seen a dishonest “yes” create distance, stress, resentment, and guilt. A wise woman I met several years ago at a workshop in California told me, “My definition of stress is when your gut says ‘no’ and your mouth says, ‘Certainly!’” Perhaps it is the dishonest “yes” to too many things (even if they’re all good things) that contributes to a hectic life. When we are dishonest with ourselves, we are likely to end up harboring feelings of resentment toward others, which can in turn make it very difficult for us to feel the Spirit. The Savior’s perfect life beautifully illustrates the clarity of purpose and priority. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “As far as I can see, Jesus was never hectically involved. This is all the more marvelous when we realize that so much of His mortal Messiahship was crowded into only three very busy years” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, June 1994, 43). I understand this quote to mean that we can follow the example of Christ by being mindful of individuals in our lives and helping to meet their needs without manically saying “yes” to every opportunity or request.