Jason Wright: Are we saying ‘no’ often enough?
As you read this — no matter where you live — this scene is available in a store near you.
A child looks up at Mom or Dad and asks for something they want, but almost most certainly doesn’t need. If the answer is “no,” the child often asks again in a different tone and rhythm.
Like a composer, they add another instrument each time they ask. Sometimes, the begging and pleading and become so loud it’s like a symphony heard across the store, or worse, the ZIP code.
We’ve all been there. We were the child, the parent or the stranger in line behind them.
The theme appears everywhere: The kid who wants a sleepover. The movie your son wants to watch that he’s just not ready for. The school dance where your daughter wants to make an appearance, but with a boy you’d like to actually disappear.
Contrary to what our children might believe, we don’t say “no” because we delight in their distress. We say “no” because it’s the best answer. But do we say “no” often enough?
Here’s another scene unfolding somewhere near you, but much more reverently.
A mother prays for the son who raged and barged out of the house two years ago that she hasn’t seen since. Mom just wants him home, and she prays that God will say “yes” and deliver him to her doorstep.
Three streets over, a woman is also asking God for a child. She’s been trying to get pregnant for years and fears the window is quickly closing. She asks every single day, but the answer has not changed. Like a child in the store, she’s also crying. But her tears come not from disappointment — they spring from grief.
Across town a teenage boy is likewise on his knees. He’s pleading and bargaining with his heavenly father that his earthly father will come home from yet another trip to the hospital. Dad has been battling cancer and more than anything, his son wants him to attend his high school graduation, his wedding and to be back at the hospital in a happier wing — labor and delivery — to one day meet a grandchild.
Every day we call out to God — our father — and ask him for things we both want and need. In his own time, he has a way of meeting those needs, and, occasionally, even our wants.
But he often says “no.”
Every day our children come to us and ask for things they both want and need. Sometimes we believe that to show love, or to end the asking, or to end the tantrum, we must say “yes.” But if we believe that there is a heavenly pattern to parenting, shouldn’t we say “no” more often?
Next time you’re the awkward stranger watching one of these dramatic family moments play out next to the candy bar rack, glance in the cart and see what you find. There are exceptions, of course, but you usually see exactly what the child needs. Bread, milk, eggs, perhaps new socks and maybe an item or two they want.
It might be their favorite cereal, a new coloring book, or that bag of chips Mom doesn’t normally buy.
If you believe in God, if you believe he is our literal father in heaven, the next time you’re faced with the decision of getting something your child wants but does not necessarily need, try saying “no.”
No matter how badly they think they need it, consider all you know about their life that they have not yet learned. Consider that you’re taking care of their needs and helping them grow through the “no.”
Say it with love. Say it with compassion and patience. But say it.
God loves us. But sometimes, despite our deepest desires, he says “no” because he sees more than the here and now — he sees what’s best for us over an eternity.
Likewise, we love our children. But sometimes, despite their deepest desires, we should say “no” because we see more than the here and now — we see what’s best for them along their earthly journey in our care.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If it’s good for God, it’s good for us.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.jasonfwright.com.