I remember first thinking about this years ago when someone would talk about their children as if they had absolutely no control over them. They would say things like, “they won’t come home on time” or “I can’t get them to eat dinner”. It was always kinda strange when I heard it, it was as if their child was a completely independent person who just did whatever they wanted and the parent couldn’t do anything about it. The parents genuinely felt helpless, they acted as if they were waiting for the child itself to make the correct decisions, or somebody or something else to interfere. It was sometimes tragically funny because the parent would complain about something like the kid spending too much money, and then I would ask, “where did they get the money” and the parent would reply, “I gave it to them”.
I was recently confronted with this when a man began telling me the extraordinary amount of money he was spending on a trip for his wife and kids to Europe. While he was explaining the reasons why they were going and the details of the trip, he repeatedly stopped to make sure and tell me that he thought it was a bad idea, unnecessary, a waste of money, impractical, etc. At the end of his story I told him that he should of just said no. His response was interesting, he felt as if he was helpless, as if it would be wrong somehow to say no, as if there was really nothing he could do about it now. I felt sorry for him, but it really got me thinking.
I started asking guys with wives and kids this question, “How much of your interactions with your wife and kids is you telling them no”, not surprisingly their response was, “a lot”. I started to think about society at large, about politics, about civilization, and I realized that it is all built upon one word, NO.
There is a reason that the ten commandments are negative commandments, they say “thou shalt not”. They are God saying to us “no”. It is our role to say no to ourselves, as well as our wives and children.
I think about it this way. Human nature is like a wild river, always flowing, sometimes low, sometimes high, sometimes calmly, sometimes wildly, always flowing. Our default position, our “natural” state, is chaos, is animal desires, is sin. When we begin to say “no” to these desires we begin to channel the river, the more we say “no” is the construction of dykes, finally when we have mastered our use of “no” we have constructed a dam across the river regulating it’s flow, not shutting it off completely, but allowing the appropriate flows at the appropriate times.
I urge you men to say no. It is not you taking the fun out of life, it is you putting the order into it.