BUT may be the most powerful word, outside of “no”, in our English language.
We all remember saying “but, Mom …” repeatedly when we were growing up. We can recall how we knew it all, so we’d use “but, Mom …” as a means to get our way.
Did it work? Probably not most of the time, since Mom is a whole lot smarter than we ever give her credit for.
But we don’t grow out of this behavior. As adults, we still tend to say “but, ____…” to get our way – with our boss, our spouse, our kids, our parents, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors. Sometimes we need to use “but” because the person doesn’t see the other perspective or any other possibilities. In this instance, it is merely a tool of persuation.
But sometimes our “but” is a dangerous word. Why dangerous? Because it points to the prideful and self-righteous places in our hearts.
Ouch! Sometimes the truth really does hurt.
So what’s the truth about BUT?
- BUT says it’s not my fault and I don’t have to take (any) responsibility.
- BUT says I’m not wrong and there is nothing to change or improve about myself.
- BUT says that my perspective is the only one that matters, no matter how limited it is.
- BUT says I deserve to be right, and that’s all that matters.
- BUT is my justification of my bad choices, my harsh words, and my hurtful actions.
- BUT is my subtle way of saying that I’m right and you’re wrong.
- BUT implies that I’m better or smarter or more important than you.
- BUT takes any equal ground we have and makes me a little higher than you.
- BUT takes a simple situation and adds unnecessary drama and tension.
OK, so BUT doesn’t always mean any of these things, but you realize that for probably 90% (or more) of your conversations I am right.
So when I stop and count how many times in the last month I’ve said BUT to defend my words and actions, it is staggering. When I think of how many times I’ve said BUT recently, all these revelations are true. I have used BUT as a way to make myself feel better about being a mean girl. I have used BUT to smooth out (cover up) my rough edges. I have used BUT to argue that my ways are right and I was completely justified in my wrong behavior because “she started it”.
BUT I was wrong!
BUT makes me feel OK about doing things my way instead of God’s way. And it shouldn’t. BUT, when used in one of the above contexts, should be an immediate point of conviction that stops me in my tracks and silences me. BUT should be a giant red flag telling me I may be venturing off God’s path and may be headed in the wrong direction. BUT should be a swift kick to stop my tongue while God is trying to download some truth to me.
Why? Because BUT neither contains nor gives any mercy, grace, or forgiveness. BUT makes it all about me and takes all eyes off God.
Who or what have you tried to defend yourself against?
Where have you aimed your BUT lately?
How effective was your BUT? Did it help you make your case, or it did only make you sound self defensive and petty?
God wants us to own up to our mistakes and errors. He wants us to be fully honest about our misses and failures. He wants to hear us admit where (or how) we missed the mark of love.
Why? Because then that sin cannot control us anymore (Genesis 4:7 – And its [sin’s] desire is for you, but you should rule over it.). Because then God can forgive us and grow us. Because then we can begin the process of restoring the relationship. Because then we can act and react differently when the situation arises again.
So what’s the goal? To be a person who takes BUT out of the equation of relationships and focuses on peaceful, loving interaction. Romans 12:9-21 is subtitled “Behave Like a Christian”, and it gives us some great advice to live outside the BUT:
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God calls us to peacemakers who live “with brotherly love” in humility, blessing all we come in contact with and touching everyone with His goodness.
BUT is a wide path of crooked turns, broken hearts, and wounded emotions. We need to remember that only God can make the crooked path straight and strenthen the broken heart to whole.
So it is only through God’s grace can we take BUT out of the equation. So instead of being quick to defend ourselves, maybe we can pause and pray. Maybe we can try seeing outside of our limited perspective. Maybe we can begin to be people who realize that love is the only way to change the world … and we take on God’s perspective of “And (for) God so loved the world …” (John 3:16).
My goal at this time is to continue to find ways to make the world around me better. Can I say a kind word more often? Can I be more agreeable? Can I speak up in a nice way when I don’t agree? Can I stop creating drama where there shouldn’t be any? Can I stop questioning every move and intention of the people around me? I am determined to be a person who BUTs out of negativity, drama, blame, guilt, shame, and domination. I want to instead be a person who ANDs (demonstrates) love, peace, joy, self-control, friendliness, kindness, patience, and gentleness. No if’s – no except when ___, no because you ___, no have to ___ to make a good impression.
We’re called to love. Matthew 22:37-39 says “37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” No if’s about showing His love. No and’s about showing His love. And definitely no BUT’s about showing His love.
So I’ll work on being better about not being a BUT person. How about you?
Marie Fremin, 11/2/14