The Big But

There’s an outside chance you thought I might have left off a ‘t’ from the but in the title word and you might have wondered if I was about to get a little racy here.

Well, I didn’t. Not that I have any reservations about being racy. We just don’t know each other well enough yet.

I wanted to share my experience and experiment with the word but.

Here is my experience: at one point in my journey, my thoughts and sentences contained these phrases constantly…”I know but…” or “Yeah, but…” or “I should have but” or “I’m sorry but…”.

Now the word and the thought following it are more commonly accepted as qualifiers than they are considered outright refusals; more offered as legitimate extenuating circumstances rather than full blown excuses. I came to refer to it as the ‘but clause’. It’s rather a polite, indirect and crafty way to say ‘no’. It is a clear indicator of resistance.

As I suggested, the thought (clause) that follows the word but most often seems to justify staying where we are (emotionally, intellectually, physically) rather than moving on to something different. When I took the time to notice, I discovered that the word but was my way of expressing my intransigence. It was also my favorite form of shifting responsibility away from myself. Here are some examples:

  • I know what you are saying but it’s just not that easy.
  • I know I should talk to my kids more but we’re all just so busy.
  • I’ve tried telling him/her that but they just won’t listen.
  • I’d like to go for a run with you but I don’t have the right shoes.
  • I want to have a simple wedding but my mother won’t hear of it.
  • I want to tell my boss what I really think but I have to wait for the right time.

I know you have a whole warehouse full of your own examples so I won’t go on. There was one other thing I noticed about my experience with the ‘but clause’. The qualifiers that followed the word but (the thoughts or feelings) were occasionally true but almost never helpful to me or to anyone else. Read the examples above beginning from the word but. There’s not much that’s useful towards growth or connection in any of those clauses.

That’s when I decided to conduct an experiment with myself. I simply moved the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence (the period) and placed it right in front of the but word.

  • I know what you are saying. –but it’s just not that easy.
  • I know I should talk to my kids more. –but we’re all just so busy.
  • I’ve tried telling him/her that. –but they just won’t listen.
  • I’d like to go for a run with you . –but I don’t have the right shoes.
  • I want to have a simple wedding. –but my mother won’t hear of it.
  • I want to tell my boss what I really think. -but I have to wait for the right time.

Everything after the but I simply considered as bullshit. I put my focus on the statements preceding the but and, when I did, I noticed that they seemed to be my truth and they seemed to be something I could connect with and take action on that I could grow with.

The simple exercise of placing the period punctuation mark before any but helped me to recognize what I truly knew or felt. In this way I was more able to take positive actions in these situations rather than sitting on my big but.

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