I have a talk I give when I’m trying out at a church entitled “Just Say Yes”, so I’m no stranger to the idea of saying yes to life. While I believe it is important to say yes to our dreams and to those “calls” of spirit, I also know that sometimes it is just as important to be able to say no.
I have a friend who says yes a lot. I think it is because she has trouble saying no. She is very generous and gives and gives of herself and her resources to friends and family. Some of us have been telling her she needs to say yes less often. So she’s been working with a new statement: “that doesn’t work for me.” It’s a fancy way of saying no without having to actually say the word.
Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) has mastered the art of saying no. He’s a loan officer in a dead end job who had his heart broken in love. He hibernates in his apartment watching videos and comes up with all kinds of excuses to keep from going out with his friends. One friend finally shakes him out of his inertia and invites him to a self-help seminar where he is shamed into making a covenant to say yes to absolutely everything. It is no surprise that his life dramatically changes!
Carl says yes to giving a ride, and then all of his money to a homeless man and ends up having to walk miles when his car runs out of gas. Some of his yes choices seem to get him into trouble, but he continues to say yes, yes, yes. Would you like to pay the entire bar tab…yes. Would you like to drink Red Bull all night...yes. Would you like to go outside and fight…yes.
I remember growing up and being upset because my mom always seemed to say no when all of my friends were saying yes. I can still remember my mother asking me, “If everyone asked you to go jump off of a bridge would you do it?” Well apparently, according to this movie the answer should be yes. (You’ll have to see the movie to see why this works out okay.)
The point of this movie isn’t that we should say yes to everything with no discernment, rather it points out that when you have had a lifetime of saying no, sometimes you have to get a bit radical to break out of that pattern. Sometimes you have to force yourself to say yes even when you think you want to say no. Carl learns that he hasn’t just been saying no to others, he had been saying no to himself, and to a greater life. In the end he learns that saying no can also be a way of saying yes…yes to you.
My friend does not have Carl’s problem. She has a lifetime of saying yes. We could all learn a few things from her. Now, by getting clearer on what works for her, she is learning to say yes to herself.