Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Learning to Say Yes

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From Jeremy: This is a guest post by Katie Axelson. Katie is a professional writer devoted to lives that tell a better story. She is already saying yes in her own life having worked as an English teacher in China and as a supporter of Compassion International. You can connect with her on her blog or on Twitter.

A Story

According to the story I heard through the grapevine, the family had already adopted multiple times when the wife received a call asking if they’d take a newborn. The child’s prospective adoption had fallen through shortly after birth. The mother receiving the call said yes. Then she called her husband. Of course, he said yes too and their family grew overnight.

I wondered what it would be like for the husband to receive that call from his wife.

“Honey, we’re having a baby. Today.”

Being single, it’s hard for me to envision that kind of a situation, but I began to wonder what it would be like to be a wife receiving the same phone call.

“Honey, set an extra plate at the table tonight, I’m bringing home another child.”

photo by Alex E. Proimos (Creative Commons)

Saying No

In this hypothetical, I thought about the practical things: finances, space, food, etc. Would I honestly be able to say “Yes, that’s great!”?

The ugly truth is: I’ve already said no.

We all have.

  • I say no when I support ministries with everything but my wallet.
  • I say no when I sign up to bring the cheapest item on the menu for local starving children.
  • I say no when I hand a child back to his mother when he gets orange spit-up on my new white dress.
  • We say no every time we divert our eyes at the end of the off-ramp to avoid acknowledging the face of the hungry human.
  • We say no when we decide the perfect time to use the restroom during a concert is when the performer is talking about child sponsorship.
  • We say no when we come up with excuses to stay in our comfortable homes, comfortable jobs, and comfortable over-full closets.

We say no when we choose to ignore the problem in hopes that it will go away.

It won’t go away without us.

Saying Yes

  • We say yes when we buy a college student coffee.
  • We say yes when we grocery shop for a family working too many jobs and still struggling to make ends meet.
  • We say yes when we tutor local children who are not excelling in school.
  • We say yes when we take a hot lunch to a shut-in.
  • We say yes when we cut the grass for the single mother. 
  • We say yes when we look someone in the eye and genuinely ask how he’s doing.

Maybe we’re not getting phone calls asking us to take in abandoned children. But every day we’re passing up moments to say yes to living a better story.

Sometimes living a better story means “Yes” no matter how outrageous the request of the person on the other end of the line.

Have you ever said yes to something that was extremely difficult? How did it turn out?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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26 Replies

  1. Goodness, Katie.  This is a squirm in my chair kind of post.  I’ve said no way too many times.  Thank you for this challenge.  

  2. Great description. Today is the day we all choose to squirm more.

  3. Kris

    Oh, I have said many of those No’s in the past, but not anymore.  God has been pulling me out of comfort zones for the past 15 years and for the last 4 I have run a blanket ministry for the homeless in my community.  What a blessing it has been!  I am learning to say YES now more and more. 
    I loved this post!  Thank you for writing it, even if it does make us squirm a bit.  We all need to squirm a bit at times 😉 

  4. What do you do with your blanket ministry, Kris?

  5. Great challenge, Katie!  Saying “yes” is something that we all need to learn to do more and better…but we also need to have boundaries and keep ourselves healthy enough to continue saying “yes” strategically to make a lasting impact in people’s lives.  As a born-and-bred codependent, I say “yes” a little too often to a little too much, and sometimes it crashes and burns me out.

  6. I certainly agree Christine. You can’t say yes indiscriminately. To me this is Katie’s point. That we are saying no to the wrong things and saying yes to the wrong things.

  7. I definitely agree. It’s often the little things that I say yes to that prevent me from saying yes to something big, something radical.


  8. Thanks for squirming rather than leaving, Eileen.

  9. Thank you for the blanket ministry, Kris! What a wonderful opportunity to help satisfy a great need.


  10. I’ve said yes to writing. To opening myself up and being vulnerable. To being more available to help others. It’s been difficult at times but VERY, VERY, VERY rewarding! I’m so glad I said yes!! 

  11. We have said yes several times to opening our home to several family and friends in need and every time I call my husband or he calls me; even though we have a MILLION reasons to say no…we say yes.  We realize even though it seems one or more people have been living with us since a month after we bought the house and it seems painful, thankless and just draining at times, it is not about us and we are so thankful for what God has blessed us with, we want to share it with others to help them get on their feet.  I will admit, there are days where we just want our own space and not have to worry about increased bills and buying extra food when we don’t feel we can afford it and we wonder if we are taking on too much but God has ALWAYS been faithful and has ALWAYS provided us with whatever we’ve needed.

  12. Good for you! I’m so glad you’ve gotten to see God’s faithfulness, even if it’s sometimes draining. Keep up the good work!

  13. I agree with what Christine Niles said.  We have to make ourselves see what others ignore, but also have to be aware of our purpose so we know when to say yes.  Saying yes can be dangerous with the wrong intentions, and distraction when misguided.  In fact, saying “No” to some good things will allow you to say “Yes” to great things.  

    I was a people pleaser once, and I slowly but surely killed my own happiness trying to make others happy.  Not worth it.

  14. Saying yes doesn’t necessarily being being over-committed. In this case, saying yes means being intentional yet generous with your time even if it’s very uncomfortable.


  15. katie, reading this was like looking myself in the mirror. i’m guilty of saying ‘no’ far too often. i believe and talk a big game, but my actions don’t always back up what i say and believe. i was also reminded of that movie, yes man, with jim carrey. 

  16. Well said.  I’m on board with the doing the uncomfortable, and looking for opportunities to say yes – but remembering to be intentional, as you stated.  Enjoyed your post Katie

  17. I kind of figured we were saying the same thing in different ways. Thanks for reading and dialoguing with me, Cole.

  18. I’ve had that problem too, Tim. Change starts with small intentional steps (unless you get a phone call about a baby… then you’ve got to leap in with both feet, I guess).

  19. There have been many times when I’ve said “yes” when it’s been extremely difficult to do so.  Those times are often overshadowed by the guilt of when I’ve said “no.”  I long for the day when I’ll say “yes” whenever I have opportunity!

  20. I think my biggest yes, one that kind-of cemented the kind of life i would live henceforth and one that has gotten me where I am today – was saying yes to being a small-group leader. It was difficult thing, no one really asked me, (okay they did and i gave an emphatic No!), the timing was all wrong and i had no desire to lead ‘beady-eyed struggling Christians’ (my thoughts then).

    But I submitted to my spiritual authority, bawled my eyes out and said yes.  if I had not said yes then, taken that first step, i don’t know where my life would be today. I bless God!

  21. That’s a great story. I lead a group of guys last year and it was very rewarding. At first I wanted to say no because I felt I wasn’t ready. But saying yes forced me to get ready, and it worked out great.

  22. I feel you, Denise. I wish I didn’t have to force myself to say yes sometimes, but I do.

  23. Well done, Ngina. Being a small group leader is hard work!

  24. I had to force myself to say yes last night even… it’s a daily struggle but an intentional step in the right direction.

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