When Maybe is the Wrong Answer

“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”  Matthew 5:37


“Maybe” used to be a word of promise to me.  When I was growing up, if Mom or Dad answered a question with “maybe”, it didn’t mean it was certain, but it was a word of possibilities.  Usually good possibilities.  I liked maybe.  Maybe usually worked in my favor.  There were generally strings or conditions to turn a maybe into a yes, but they were given up front and if those strings or conditions were met, the “maybe” became a “yes.”  Or from my point of view, a “YES!!!!”

But now it seems we have become a people of maybe….and not in a good way.  Not in a way where the word holds excitement and possibilities.  Nowadays it seems perhaps maybe has become just a wimpy “no.”

You know we do it….we say “maybe” sometimes because it’s hard to commit.  Sometimes we are waiting for a better offer.  Sometimes we just don’t want to do it and don’t know how to say no.  Sometimes we harbor fears that noone knows about…. periods of depression or social anxiety and are not sure if we are able to be a  “yes” on that day. Sometimes we are exhausted and at the end of our rope and don’t want to be around other people.  Sometimes we want to spend time with you, but not doing what you want to do, and don’t know how to approach you with an alternative.  Sometimes you have been a pain to be around and we are avoiding you.  Sometimes we are just inconsiderate and our mind is on overload…and we just don’t want to think about whether it works in our schedule or think about whether we really want to do it and aren’t really thinking about the fact that you are waiting for an answer and that our answer impacts your life too.  (And yes, I have been guilty of this……and I am sorry!  It’s embarrassing when I realizedI have done it …even worse to know I may have done it and it really did slip my mind…and I just may not have apologized sufficiently…or at all!  Am I allowed to call “menopausal” on this one?  No, I wouldn’t let me either.)

I feel like I spend a lot of my life on hold…..waiting to see what other people are going to do. Don’t you?  When they will make their decision as to what “maybe” will mean.  Because “maybe” is not a permanent word.  It’s a place holder.  At some point it turns into a yes or a no.  Sometimes by default.  Often someone is waiting patiently for that answer from you, putting their plans on hold in hope that you come back with a “yes”.  Your maybe can be the prelude to a hurt heart or hurt feelings or a last minute panic because they have to adjust their plans when you wait until the last minute to actually give a real answer.

And then there is the last minute cancellation.  Often these are because someone meant maybe, but said “yes.”  Lately this seems to happen to me often.  Are people more lax in their commitments or is there something else going on?   You receive a firm commitment from someone, you’re all prepared and ready to go, excited about your plans, and you get that last minute call.  Sick, tired, over-extended, still at work, no money, going with someone else.  Or the latest trend seems to be…..they just “forget” they committed and don’t call or show up or ever apologize.  After a while you don’t bother to call them to see what is going on.  You know it has happened again and it will lead to that awkward “Oh I am so sorry I forgot” conversation…and it has happened enough that you doubt whether they really forgot (they usually have a good memory for other things) and just don’t want to have to be disappointed in them.  Because they are our friends, right?

I think we still get our hopes up when we hear the word “maybe.”  We still think it is a possibility.  Even if it is said with no intent of ever being anything but a “no”….for some reason we think if they meant “no” they would have said it.  Not a bad logic, but unfortunately often not the truth.  If your answer is “no”, isn’t “maybe” the crueler answer?  (Yes, in some ways we never leave the immature world of seventh grade and forget it is time to be a grownup.)

The word maybe not only impacts the lives of others around us, it impacts our own lives.  How many things are in our “maybe” folder, that we should move to our “yes” or “no” permanent files?  How many things stay in “maybe” status because of our fear?  How much of our life do we “maybe” away?  (In other words instead of “doing” or “trying” we stay home curled up on our couch because we are afraid to say “yes.”)  Do we really want to live our lives in the land of maybe?

We should resolve to not use wimp and weak words…..and that includes the word maybe.  “Maybe” is not always evil and it does have its place.  It can be very useful.  Sometimes we need placeholders.  We need to pause and think about things and not give flippant answers.  But as my parents used to do, there should be strings or conditions stated when we use the word (even if only stated to ourselves.)  Ultimately we need to make it a “yes” or “no”.  We should make a deadline for a real answer that we actually stick to.  A deadline that doesn’t inconvenience others.  A quick “no” is a whole lot kinder than a drawn-out maybe….especially when you know it is your answer.  Trust me….most of us prefer it to the limbo that “maybe” traps us in.  We may be disappointed, but it is a kinder way to treat someone.  Or another idea….how about getting out of your comfort zone, be bold, live a grown up life, try a “yes,” and stick to your commitment?   Just a suggestion.

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