From “But” to “And”

I thought about titling this piece, “reduce the size of your big But,” and then decided that might be a little too crass given the context. The truth is however, in ministry our “Buts” too often cut short emergent possibilities.


How many times have you said to yourself something like, “I want to go to the gym more often, but I don’t have the time?” Actually, both parts of that statement can be true and stand side by side with equal merit and strength. You have the desire for more exercise AND you are very busy. Notice I used “and” as the conjunctive in that sentence, rather than “but.” When we state two truths about our lives using “but” as the conjunctive between those two truths we effectively negate or minimize the first truth. The desire to go to the gym gets trumped by “I don’t have the time.” The use of “but” leads to a “.” While “and” invites a “…”


Very often in coaching we assist our clients in designing lives or ministries with greater intention.  That means helping them to excavate new ideas, to reexamine long held positions on the way things are, and to expand the range of possibilities before them. In this exploration stage the objective is to help them be expansive rather than restrictive. One tool to help clients stay open to the wide range of what is possible in their lives and ministries is to challenge their “buts;” literally replacing them with “ands.”


A surface change in the use of language can affect a deeper shift in what a person holds to be true. In coaching I encourage you to mind your “buts” and “ands,” calling forth the use of intentional language which preserves for the client a posture of openness, exploration and possibility.  I guess that really does sound better than “reduce size of your big but” AND I hope the thought of it made you smile.

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