A Real Hang-Up by Keith Langdon

   Nancy called me on the phone the other day. 
   And I hung up on her.
   It was about nine o’clock in the morning when the phone rang.
   “Good morning.  My name is Nancy.  Am I speaking to Keith?”
   I told her that she was, although I was instantly cautious about her knowing my name, and by her strong accent, I seriously doubted that her given name was Nancy.
   She continued.  “Could you tell me if you are over sixty years old?” 
   Again, more information than I really wanted her to know, but I acknowledged that I did fall into that bracket, thinking that was obviously the reason she had called me in the first place.
   She then began her rehearsed speech and seriously but enthusiastically told me that statistics had shown that people in “my age group” (insert offense here) were the most common victims of identity theft, and that because of her concern for my financial security, she was prepared to offer me a plan to make sure that I didn’t become yet another victim of that crime. 
   I had no interest in spending my money to protect myself from people spending my money (isn’t there some irony here?), so I politely told her “No, thank you.  I’m not interested.” She scarcely took a breath and continued her speech where she had left off. 
   I granted her a few more seconds, then interrupted her in mid-sentence, and repeated myself.
   “I’m not interested, thanks anyway.”
   The words had barely left my mouth when she began again, a little more insistently this time.  Still friendly, but now definitely irritating.
   One more time.
   “Thank you, but no thank you.  I’m not interested.”
   And I hung up the phone on Nancy.
   Instantly I felt a little guilty.  Somewhere in New Delhi, a young woman’s feelings were hurt because an American Christian had just cut her off and hung up the phone on her.  How ungracious!
   I know.  Not really.  The truth was that as soon as the dial tone had returned, she had dismissed me like the hundreds of others who had done the same thing, and begun to dial the number of the next “senior” on her list without giving me a second thought.
   But I still did feel a little guilty.
   I sometimes struggle with setting boundaries with people.  Like most, I try to avoid offending others and it does matter to me what others think.  Probably too much.  And that mentality can sometimes make many of us very susceptible to those who would take advantage of us.  In the name of grace and mercy and acceptance, how guilty should we feel in rejecting others?
        Nancy reminded me of two things.
   First, there’s a difference between rejecting people and rejecting their ideas and words.  God gave each of us the freedom to say “no” to others when we really do not feel the compulsion to adopt their beliefs, accept their lifestyle, or give in to their requests.  As believers, we are supposed to be good, and “do good to everyone, especially to those of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).  But even Jesus passed by many who insisted that He meet their needs, and despite the sincerity and gravity of their requests, He walked on by.  He said “no”.  Even Jesus felt the need to pull away from the demands of others, to separate Himself, to go off alone for rest and recuperation, determining where and when He was to use His resources.
   We can’t, and shouldn’t be all things to all people.  That’s God’s job.
   Secondly, Nancy taught me that when we disagree with someone, or when we turn away someone’s request, we can do that without resorting to unkind words, or without demonstrating an unloving spirit.  “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”  (Galatians 4:6).
   Being Christian does not mean we must comply submissively to the wishes of others.  It does not mean we give up our freedom to disagree.  But there is never a time it is appropriate to be hurtful.  There is never a time we should not be sensitive to the feelings of others.  It is so easy these days to offend others through the use of social media, and it may be more tempting than ever to cross that line, but we should always try to see others through God’s eyes, despite even sharp differences, and treat them accordingly.
   So, Nancy, I hope I didn’t offend you.  But sometimes you just need to say “No, thank you”, and politely hang up.