I heard the DJs on a morning radio show taking calls about why people don’t respond to RSVPs anymore. They told the story of a woman they knew who sent out 18 invitations for her son’s birthday party, but she only received three responses- two negative and one positive. How is she supposed to prepare for a party when she has no idea how many kids will show up?
One woman called in and said that parents have been infamously bad at RSVPing for her children’s parties. They never bother to say whether or not they are coming, but if they do show up, they may bring a couple extra kids with them. This woman called it rude and inconsiderate.
She’s right, you know. It is inconsiderate to not bother to tell someone whether or not you are attending if they ask you. But I also think that this is symptomatic of a bigger problem in our culture, a tendency to be noncommittal, an attitude of which I and my generation are increasingly guilty.
Facebook event invites have only made it easier on us all to remain noncommittal. Did you get invited to a party that you aren’t sure you really want to go to? You don’t want to say ‘no’ because that might hurt the feelings of the person who invited you. But you don’t want to say ‘yes’ because then you will feel like you have to go, and there is probably something you’d rather be doing than going to this party… you just don’t know what yet. Well then, Facebook provides you with an easy out—just click ‘maybe’. Everyone will think you are considering showing up, but you won’t feel bad when you bail at the last minute. After all, you never committed to going in the first place.
Now, clicking ‘maybe’ on Facebook isn’t wrong. It is a legitimate option that people can be expected to choose when they are invited to events on Facebook. (But it sure does make it hard to plan for events- how do you decide how much food to buy when 7 people click ‘yes’, 8 people click ‘maybe’, 4 people click ‘no’, and 15 people ignore the invite altogether?) Facebook users can’t blame us if we don’t commit. But what if this attitude is seeping into the rest of our lives?
What if we are choosing to stay noncommittal about things that are much more important than Facebook events and children’s birthday parties? What if we have begun saying ‘maybe’ to God and our families and our friends on a regular basis because, hey, it gets them off our backs for now, but later we can still get out of whatever we don’t want to do?
On Facebook, clicking ‘maybe’ is nothing more than slightly inconsiderate. However, in life, saying ‘maybe’ all the time is selfish. I know that I am often guilty of this kind of selfishness. I want to keep my time for what I want to do, to keep my options open in case something better or more fun comes along, and the easy thing to do is to tell God and friends that maybe I will show up. If they’re lucky. Maybe.
When Jesus said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’”, he wasn’t even considering ‘maybe’ as an option. Jesus was insisting that when we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we should mean it without having to take oaths so that people know we mean what we say. He wanted his people to be known as people of their word.
But today we have reached the opposite end of the problem. If Jesus was addressing today’s generations, he would probably say, “C’mon guys, say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because you’re gonna have to commit to something.” Today’s problem is not that we don’t keep our word; the problem is that we never give our word in the first place. We withhold our yes and no as we keep an eye out for something better, and in the process we withhold ourselves from partnership with God and the people around us who need our good word.
Saying ‘Yes’ may be sacrificial for us at times, but it is a practical way we can give ourselves to one another in love. Saying ‘No’ can actually be kind when we need to say it–at least it doesn’t leave the other person hanging. ‘Maybe’ is a word of infinite possibility that we have taken and twisted and turned into a tool we can use to control others and get our own way.
Anyways, it’s been on my mind for a while. It’s something I’m going to be working on.