Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thou Shalt Not: The Staggering Importance of "No"

Last night two friends and I came up with the designs for three t-shirts. We want to wear them around the university campus where one of us lives, as protest to the degradation that universities are more and more famous for. The first shirt would say "Ack!", the second "Why?!" and the third "Thou Shalt Not!"

Religious people are much maligned because we believe there are things we shouldn't do. Likewise, parents are made to feel guilty for "stifling" their children with the dread word "no." Give us free rein, we say. Let us be ourselves. Let us follow our hearts, capitulate to our whims, be in all things accountable to nothing but desire.

The importance of "no" cannot be overstated. A society of people who cannot say "no" to themselves are destined to destroy themselves. Not every human urge is good. Some impulses should be bludgeoned, not acted upon. Do you doubt this? Try being on the receiving end of someone who says "yes" to everything. Yes, lose your temper. Yes, let those venomous words out of your mouth. Yes, take that physical relationship far beyond the limits of commitment. Yes, have another drink. Yes, start that fight. Yes, yes, yes.

God is often seen as a monster because He dared tell us "Thou shalt not." The parent who does the same is overprotective, overbearing, and overstepping the bounds of individuality. The grown-up child who tells himself "no" is a stick-in-the-mud. So says the world. But the world will crumble while God and His people stand, all because of the virtue of saying "no."

When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to ask why when my parents said "no." It meant what it meant; my job was to obey. As I grew, the rule relaxed. My parents wanted me to understand. Blind obedience is good to a point, but whole-hearted obedience born of understanding and acquiescence is better. I read the Bible and got a whole host of "Thou shalt nots," and with them, an understanding of what sin does to people. I thank God for His laws. I thank Him for His wisdom. I thank Him, because the "Ack!" and "Why?!"-worthy things we do were not in His plan.

The ability to say "no" is what makes us human. We can and must judge between good and evil in our society, our standards, our actions. Self-control enables us to rise above animal urges and live worthy lives of creativity, duty, productivity, real love. What good does it do a man if he follows his every urge, and loses his own soul?

It begins at home. Self-control, the inner "Thou shalt not" that guides us, is best learned at home under the loving tutelage of parents who want us to understand, as God wants us to understand. The father or mother who can firmly and lovingly say "no" opens the door to true humanity.

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Coming next week: "Yes and Amen: The Magnificent Power of 'Yes'"

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Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Rachel, Yes. Just as Scripture says, "The grace of God teaches us to SAY NO to ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-controled, upright and godly lives in this present age...

Living in the Spirit means not living according to the flesh and what animates the world.

I think many people of my generation and others have reacted to a "legalism" grounded in a list of "do nots" that was not grounded well in Scripture or dependent on the Spirit's work. Certainly to be "in the Spirit" (Romans 8) does not mean we don't have to say, "No." We certainly do.

Great post! Thanks.

7:53 p.m.  
Blogger Libby Russell said...

Exactly! I read an article in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis a few weeks ago about a psychologist who recently wrote a book about what he calls "DDD" --discipline deficit disorder. He says the recurrently worsening behaviors and attitudes of children and teenagers in America is a direct result of parents who bend to their child's every whim and who never curb them with "negatives." This guy who wrote the book was coming from a worldly perspective, but even he could see the idiocy of letting children raise themselves rather than parents raising children.

"No" is such a basic necessity of parenting, it boggles my mind to think it's in so much question nowadays.

Great post!

11:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Sally Johnson said...

Hi Rachel,
I am new to your blog, and I really enjoyed this post. Good thinking. And for this good thinking, I have awarded you a Thinking Blogger Award. Go to my blog to see how to pick it up.

1:44 p.m.  

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