Then Comes the But

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…

Another 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,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,

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.

No Longer Competing

I’ve seen posts, read memes, and watched lessons from women, to women, about not competing with other women. It resonated with me and I often felt like “I got it” – as in the message overall.

I got it, that is, until I felt like I was put in competition with another woman. Through choices not my own, and secrets I discovered unexpectedly, I was at odds with a woman I didn’t even know. At the moment I was most consumed, I wanted to be just like her. At the moment I was fighting the hardest, I wanted to be exactly the opposite of her. Regardless, I wanted the attention she was receiving, because to me it was supposed to be the attention I was receiving.

On top of my own over thinking mind to combat, I was also a little more than half way through my final pregnancy – just pregnant enough to not feel the glow, teetering on the point where I was starting to feel down on myself about the reflection in the mirror.

It’s hard to compete with someone you don’t even know. If you’re an over thinker like me, you might even make them someone they are not.

Through unconventional methods, I learned more about who she was, at least on some level. But the more I learned, the more I felt like she was someone I would call a friend. Imagine my shock the more I learned, the more I liked, the more I thought of her as someone I’d like to really know – without being hidden behind a weird veil.

I had to come clean, and I did. I expected the worse, and that’s not what I got. There is a level of weirdness that I cannot deny, but she accepted me even after I admitted being absolutely nuts. I was able to see that she wasn’t who I made her up in my mind to be.

And in a moment where I found myself lending a hand at her request, I really got it, for the first time. I’m competing with no one but myself. I want to be better than I was yesterday and yesteryear. But I’m not really trying to be better than her, or her, or her, or her. This newfound awareness of who I’m playing against has changed the narrative for me all week. I look at other women differently than I ever have before.

The comparisons I created are silenced quickly when I remind myself that I’m only trying to learn and do better today than I did yesterday. I have found a freedom to say hello, to be warm, to be welcoming. I have found freedom to offer myself honestly, to answer questions less guarded. I have found new freedom in my writing, my living, my parenting, my being.

Thank you for accepting me when it seemed least likely you would. Thank you for choosing kindness when another choice would have made sense. Thank you for showing me a better way. Thank you for the freedom you helped me to find.

Social Media & Reconnecting Part 2

So, in my last post I covered the really negative side of reconnecting. You know, the kind that destroys trust in relationships, and has people packing their bags to be with someone from the past? So in this post I want to address the fact that there are positive ways to reconnect with people on social media.

Two very dear leaders in my life, who helped me ride my horse better, learn to lead better, and are featured in many of my “when I was growing up,” and “that one time, at horse camp…” stories are on my social media page. I get to look up to these two women, even now. I still receive advice and encouragement from them. About 10 years ago, I moved roughly 1000 miles away from my hometown. I didn’t bring their phone numbers, and I didn’t snail mail connect with them. Social media has been a huge blessing to me in allowing me to still share life with them.

Another positive instance? My childhood best friend, and her adorable little boy – I love seeing pictures of him, and knowing she is doing well. We don’t really talk much per say, and I don’t have her phone number, but I love knowing about her life. We were super close and share some awesome memories, and now we both have families.

Being so far from where my parents are, I love that social media let’s me share pictures of my kids with them, along with funny quotes and updates. Many of the things that I post on social media would never reach Grandma’s ears, because I don’t always pick up the phone every time my kids do something funny.

So, social media can help us connect to long-distance people, and people from our past that are not out to get us. Plus, I’ve been involved in a prayer group online through social media, and some mom groups, and found support through online community. Social media is definitely not all bad, but we all have to be responsible and wise with how we use it and who we connect or reconnect with while using it.

Who has had a positive influence on you, through social media?