Lead with "Yes"

Every yes implies a no.

  • If I say yes to a certain social outing on Saturday night, I am implicitly saying no to any number of other things I might do during that time.
  • If I say yes in marrying one person, I am implicitly saying no to marrying another.
  • If I say yes to reading a certain book right now, I am saying no to reading other books (at least for now).

But it is not the case that my no automatically entails a yes.

  • If I receive two Evites and click "No" on one; that doesn't mean I've said yes to the other.
  • If I decline to marry one person, I am not committing myself to another through that no.
  • If I choose not to sit down and read a book at this moment, I am free to choose to take a nap instead of reading anything at all.

A single yes might imply a thousand nos, but a thousand or a million nos cannot of themselves produce a single yes.


Catholicism has the unfortunate reputation of being the religion of no.  But every no that we encounter in her teaching is only the consequence of some other yes.  So in our evangelization efforts, it's important to consider how we can lead with "Yes".

St. Paul models this for us in the way he approached evangelization in Athens.  The Athenians had set up shrines to many gods and would scatter their prayers far and wide in the hopes of gaining their favor.  They even had a shrine set up to "An Unknown God" just in case they left anyone out!

Now, if Paul had led with "No" in his preaching, what would that have looked like?  "You Athenians are foolish.  Don't you know that these are false gods?  You are wasting your time asking for help from things that will never be able to help you!"

But this is not what Paul said.  Instead, "Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: 'You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, β€˜To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.'" (Acts 17:22-23)

In other words, Paul led with "Yes".  And this yes was two-fold.  First, it was a yes spoken to the Athenians themselves.  Even if their religious devotion was misdirected, their religious devotion was fundamentally a good and honorable thing which Paul rightly affirmed.  The second yes in Paul's speech was an invitation for the Athenians to give their own yes to the God whom Paul is proclaiming.  Of course, this yes would also eventually require saying "no" to all the other false gods, but the yes is the real goal.

As we seek to evangelize, it is worth taking time to consider:

  • How can I say "Yes" to the God-given desires in this person?
  • What is the "Yes" I am inviting this person to make?


Thanks to Ben Walther for the inspiration behind this post.