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Saying NO to someone may be a capricious prohibition, an assertion of “I am in power here”, an expression of habitual negativism, or a reflection of needless anger.  On the other hand, are there not some circumstances and times when saying NO is none of those things at all?

Allow me to give some context for my question.  Several days ago, I was at a baseball game in which my two youngest grandsons were playing.  Both did well.  One of them got two RBI’s and the other one struck out two batters in his inning of pitching.

After the game, when congratulating the guys for their game, I mentioned to the one who pitched that although striking out two batters is good, walking six others isn’t so good.  Of course he knew that.  But, the question was, “how can we eliminate all those walks which resulted in two runs scored by the opposing team?  What do we need to say NO to in order to say YES to something else?”

That was when the NO concept inevitably had to come into play, even if expressed in as positive a fashion as possible!  The fact is that my grandson thoroughly enjoys pitching fast balls, as fast as his left arm can fling them toward home plate.  I say, “toward home plate”, because that ends up being the approximate direction they go, but usually they aren’t in the strike zone!!  So, my NO was the short version of “concentrate on slowing down the pitch, getting it across the plate, and then once you are in that groove, start increasing the heat.”  A fast ball only proves you have a strong arm.  Strikes prove you have more than a strong arm; you also have discipline, and a reason for the coach to put you on the mound again.”  So, no fast balls until he can control them!!

My conversation with my grandson has big time parallels.  Living with self imposed NOs deserves our consideration. We don’t do it because we want to be some kind of masochists (although I know that some people get a kind of sick pleasure from self-inflicted pain).  Rather, we say NO to some behaviors or actions because we have figured out that we don’t have to be unproductive nor counterproductive.  There is a better way to live.  For example, if I premeditatively do things that cause me to feel guilty, I have wasted time and energy, something like throwing blazing fast balls that are never in the strike zone.  In cases like that saying NO to some tendency or impulse is not negative, but productive.

Among the nine behaviors and values that the apostle Paul lists in his letter to the Galatians (in the New Testament) and that he categorizes as “fruit of the Spirit” (evidences of God’s presence in our lives), one of them is self-control.  He means that we are to live beyond just irrationally reacting to our likes and dislikes, our wants and hates, our fears and desires.  We can say YES or NO according to their godly productivity, according to their contribution to our spiritual well being, and according to their bringing a sense of guilt or a sense of God pleasing joy.  Saying NO can be an uplifting affirmation!!!