Letting Go of "Yes, But" Thinking




I journeyed to the mall with my middle and youngest sons this past Christmas to buy presents, and for the entire journey there and through the parking lot, my middle son and I had an intense discussion about a social issue that has been politicized. 

I will leave it to your imagination as to which social issue... there are many to choose from.  

At any rate, we reached a point in our conversation where we had a divergence of opinion, and things started to get heated as we tried to explain why we felt the way we did. 

Finally, I said, "You know what, I agree with the central part of your argument 100%, but I also have questions and don't know how to feel about [this particular thing].  I think it's okay to just hold all that in tension."

I was trying to describe a "both/and" way of thinking to him instead of a "Yes, but" way of responding.  Ultimately, we both agreed that was a good resolution for our discussion. 

Then my youngest son, who had been listening to the whole thing, quietly spoke up and said: "Y'all talk a lot." 

He was right, you know.  And there's a more profound truth underneath his succinct observation.  

A lot of us talk a lot.  We speak more than we listen; even when we listen, we think about what we will say next in response to what others might be saying, especially when we have disagreements.  

Because far too many of us in our culture respond to arguments about issues in our culture that divide us along political, social, and religious lines because we are constantly waiting our turn to speak so we can say, "Yes, but..."  

We seldom try to find common ground with those with whom we disagree.  It's far easier to say "Yes, but" and then make our point.  

In fact, making our point, declaring ourselves correct, and planting a flag on the day's issues are more important than finding common ground.  

Some time ago, a pastor and author I admire said this in a sermon, and I have never forgotten it, though I have ignored it on occasion: 

"Sometimes, when you want to make a point, you lose the chance to make a difference."  

Our current culture is permeated with "Yes, but" thinking.  Most of us have opinions about everything, and social media gives us a willing partner to share our views with the world. 

Social media is the ultimate "Yes, but" resource because we don't need to look the person with whom we disagree in the eye to say what we feel we absolutely need to say.  

All we need to do is send our opinions into the social media void with little or no give and take with anyone unless people choose to say "Yes, but" to our declarations with their own comments. 

Sadly, far too many of us who claim to be Christian fall prey to this mentality, even though we ought to know better.  

Jesus' teachings to "turn the other cheek" and to "be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves" tend to get glossed over by most people who say they follow him.  

Even the Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to "telling like it is," offered up this bit of wisdom in his Letter to the Colossians: 
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
If this isn't a "both/and" kind of approach to addressing disagreements, I don't know what is.  

When you have a conversation that is full of grace and appropriately seasoned with kindness and forbearance, you find that you can be curious and calm and also live in the tension of "both/and" thinking as opposed to the "either/or" of being a "Yes, but" kind of person.  

There's so much we can do to make the world better, kinder, and gentler; for some, it might start with our conversations.  

May we have "both/and" grace-filled conversations where our disagreements can become launching pads for deeper understanding and connection.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.  


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