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“No” Is Better Than A Thousand Unkept Promises

“Don’t be so gullible, McFly.” – Biff

For much of my life, I have been the epitome of George McFly from the film series “Back To The Future”. I’ve tip-toed around people’s feelings, gone out of my way for people who were just using me, and believed the hollow promises of hollow friendships.

Gullible Voigt. Sounds catchy.

No, I’m not a pessimist, nor am I an optimist. I like to consider myself an evolving “realist” – knowing that people are all sinful, broken creatures who can still choose to seek what is good, true, and eternal. I always knew that, but when others betray my confidence, it still feels unexpected…Not sure why…Maybe it’s like watching someone kiss in a movie and getting a kiss in real life. Totally different experience.

Have you believed the best in others, only to be let down? In those moments, don’t you wish they would have just said “no”?

Several months ago, I was in communication with a Christian author who said he would send me a 2-3 sentence endorsement for my writing. He even said he’d love to connect by phone, which I thought would be awesome, so I sent him my phone number. He never replied. A few weeks went by, I followed-up about the 2-3 sentence endorsement, and he said, “Totally, I’ll send something over.” Nothing. A few months went by and then I wrote him again (I’m persistent). He said, “I’m so sorry, life has been busy. I’ll send that over.” What do you think happened?

The most bizarre part about the whole experience with this dude is that he’s a WRITER!!! A CHRISTIAN writer!!! Two to three sentences!!! We’re talking a single tweet! He tweets like 20+ times a day! Let’s get real: he never meant to keep his word, but he sure wanted me to think the best of him…Strange how that works.

He should have just said “no”. Sure, it’s not a great feeling to hear “no”, but it’s much better than 7 months of drawn out false promises and let-downs.

Now to get even more real: I have done the exact same thing a few times, desperately wanting to be liked by handing out promises I knew I wouldn’t keep.

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.” – Steve Irwin, “The Crocodile Hunter”

Have you been hurt by the duplicity and artificiality of other people?

I have often heard that I need to be willing to say “no”, but it’s not one of my greatest strengths. I want to be liked, respected, and considered a “great guy”. What happens when a “great guy” promises something and doesn’t deliver? He’s suddenly a “fake guy”. In my own story, do you really think I’ll ever desire to read anything by this author again? No. He lost his “great guy” status in my eyes (but probably not his Mom’s).

It is when we say “no” that we begin to build authentic relationships. When we say “no”, we are basically saying, “I respect you and don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll be up-front. No.” If someone takes offense at you telling them “no”, then that is something they will have to work out in their own heart.

Promises are much more than empty words spoken into the void of infinite space. They are words that can respect or disrespect the receiver.

As I simmer down on this topic, I’ll leave you with the following from Mr. Steve Jobs:

“People think focus means saying yes to the things you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”Steve Jobs


  1. This was a big goal of mine last year, let my yes be yes and my no be no. I find I do sometimes upset people when I turn down and invite, but it’s better than what I was doing before and over committing. My personal life has really flourished since I committed to that, noticeably the areas I lead in church in particular. And I’m just happier..

    • Trust me, I know how hard it can be! It’s a process and a journey of learning how to do it, but it’s something we all should begin to put into practice. Thanks for your thoughts!

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