Get Your "But" Out of the Way

June 1, 2015

Before I get in big trouble, please notice the spelling of but in the title. I’m not talking about anything you can see in the mirror looking over your shoulder. Although, I could lose a few pounds there myself. I’m speaking of the conjunction. Most of us have lots of those buts, and they don’t need to get smaller; they need to go away all together. The first definition for the word is, “except for the fact.” Now, let’s talk about why “but” shouldn't be in your vocabulary, or even in your thought process.

But is a destructive word. I remember vividly one particular high school football game I played as a defensive back. I held the all-league quarterback and split end team to a single catch. Our team had two starting players from the previous year—needless to say, we were huge underdogs in that game. We lost 14-12, and we were thrilled. However, with a single “but,” my girlfriend’s father put me in my place when he told me, “You guys could have won the game, but you let him catch that pass.”

What happens when our kids bring us a report card and say, “Look, I got all A’s and one C,” then we reply, “Well, that’s great son, but let’s work on that C.” How about at your job when you have worked hard on a project and your boss says, “Well I appreciate your efforts, but here is what I’m looking for.” Those buts hurt.

How about these buts … ones we may say to ourselves every day:
  • “I’d like to get paid a little more, but I just don’t have what it takes to get ahead.”
  • “I could probably be happier, but I guess this is the life I deserve.”
  • “I've worked really hard, but no one seems to notice.”
  • “I’d like to tell my wife how I really feel, but she knows.”

Sometimes we even defend our buts:

  • “Sometimes I feel like something is missing. I've thought about going to church and checking things out. But , I try to do good and treat people right, and that’s all that really matters.”
  • “I love my wife and kids. I work hard for them to have a nice home, toys, and an education. I don’t have as much time to spend with them as they would like, but I’m doing what’s best.”

If there is a single word that could change your life by deleting its use in speech, writing, and thought, it would be but.

Remember the old saying “throwing the baby out with the bath water”? Effectively, that’s what we do every time we use the word but. Granted, there is always a time for constructive criticism, but it should be used alone. Negative always outweighs positive, so don’t destroy a positive statement by combining it with a criticism. When you do, the rest of the sentence, discussion, or thought is never heard.

Choose your words carefully. Get your buts out of the way. And pay attention the next time you’re about to use but. It may devalue anything else you say about or to someone.

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