Someone I love dearly was trying to compliment me some days ago. It started out so well, “Your hair looks really nice today, but…” Now, I’ve learned to really hear the first part of what he says, because that’s where the gold is. The second part is where he sometimes loses sight of his original intention.
“But usually, it looks like you just came out of the barn, which is kind of true I guess…”
I laughed a little, and shrugged, “I just brushed it. Which I do everyday.”
“Yeah, yeah, it looks nice but…”
“you should brush it more often.”
Why does there have to be a but after a compliment? I heard once that everything you say after “but” is all someone hears/absorbs. When I heard that message (I think at church, but I could be mistaken) I purposed in my heart to listen different. Instead of letting the but hurt my feelings, I decided to really hear the first part and let the rest of it slide like water off a duck’s back.
Most of the time, it works.
As I listened to my Dad with his compliment-but routine, I just kind of laughed to myself. He’s been communicating like that for years. The but part used to hurt my heart badly and I never caught what came before. I’m thankful that has changed.
I then thought about how I communicate with my kids, and whether or not I insert a but at the end of every nice thing I try to say. No way, right?
“Thanks for taking out the trash but next time…”
“You did good on that assignment, but…”
“Thanks for washing the dishes, but…”
“Look you got yourself dressed! But…”
“Thank you for getting up on time, but…”
“You’ve been really responsible today, but…”
I love you and I see you and I see you’re trying but you are just not quite meeting my expectations. You just fall short. Just try a little more. Give a little more. Do a little more.
What kind of mental/emotional/achievement economy am I setting up here? One where they just can’t quite reach the bar labeled The Standard? Where they are always just a little bit lacking?
Goodness, that is not my intention. That’s the trouble with intention vs. action though – sometimes we have to examine where our actions have split at a fork in the road and are betraying our intentions – because it was easy, we just didn’t think about it, we are trying to offer helpful advice, or a myriad of other reasons. Our actions don’t always easily line up with our intentions. Sometimes we have to really focus on the gap between and draw our actions in to match what our intentions really are.
So I do the same thing to my kids, what about my husband?
“I appreciate how hard you work but…”
“Thanks for taking care of the yard but…”
“Thanks for bringing me home a treat but…”
It’s a pervasive little word that really does cancel out the nice thing you are trying to say. So this week, I’m going to focus on eliminating the but in my words. I’m going to try to offer genuine praise and appreciation, without telling anyone how they could do better next time. I don’t want to create an achievement economy that says there is never enough you can do in a day/week/month.
Until next time,
A Prayer to Share:
Adding a but after the things we say really cancels out the good we started out with. Please help us develop the ability to put the but aside. To offer genuine praise and encouragement to those around us. Help us to focus on building up and not tearing down – and reveal to us and in us the little things that we may not think matter, but that really do.
In Jesus’ Sweet name, Amen.