if, and

Sitting in theology class on Monday, I heard something that made me wince. Hard.

It went kinda like:
“I get that people will argue with me about this, and won’t want to talk about the Bible, but what do I say to make them listen to me?”

What was worse? A twenty-something guy was speaking.

So yeah, there’s that whole “make them listen” part, which as someone who successfully arrived on the far side of my children’s teen years I can assure anyone is not A Thing. There is no “make” attached to “listen.” Nope. No way. No how. Not when they’re 15 months old (hi, Baby C!). Not when they’re 15 years old. One can only “make” a body comply… and that’s so problematic you’d be better off not going there. (I speak from personal, repeated experience.)

And part of me stereotypes that as a “he” he’s more susceptible to thinking “make” is a verb he has access to. Maybe not! There’s a lot of that language still floating around parenthood even now, and we all fall back on our rearing unless we’re paying a lot of attention. Regardless of our gender.

The part that bothered me more—because I chalked the “make” mistake up to inexperience—was the but.

“This person is telling me their institutional hurt, or their learned fear, or their wariness;
I want to wipe it all away with my words like I’m striking it out.”

That’s but. Negation. Antithesis. And if the initially-spoken words are tied to emotion, erasure.

How is erasure a way to minister to anyone? (min·is·ter /ˈminəstər/ — verb: 1. attend to the needs of (someone).) If Christ’s saving love and grace is something you want to share, how does saying (or implying), “You’re WRONG!” convey that love and trust?

Me, in my living of Christian faith, I want to negate but.

I want to expand the practice of “Yes, and” from improvisational acting and corporation brainstorming into my everyday practice. To listen hard, and long, and perhaps and a little bit of me to the end. To affirm, because what the other has said has value. butAnd what I know has value, too. (I almost slipped there! It’s harder than it looks!)

One of my other classmates mentioned that she now lives between the conservative perspectives she grew up with and the progressive perspectives we engage with at school. She feels as if she’s shifting her weight between the two, advocating for the absent view wherever she is. “I keep saying but, but I really like what you said about and. Because what I want is to have both, at the same time.”

Exactly.

 

If I need a bridge, let me stand on and.

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