I was spending some time with a counselor this week going over some thought patterns that had surfaced in my mind and….AND.
Yeah I know, it may sound weird, but it happened.
I had an ah-ha moment with a conjunction.
I had no idea there could be so much power in one connective word.
Conjunctions are words that connect other words and phrases.
They’re sort of a big deal. Can you imagine talking without them? (Try it, I’ll wait for you. It’s pretty funny and makes it sound as if a four year old held you hostage and forced you speak in three word sentences.)
So, I was struggling reconciling some feelings I was having.
It’s a normal part of life to feel tension. It’s a normal part of life being conflicted.
The wrestling match was happening center stage in my head and in my heart.
Unable to choose between one feeling and another, I felt trapped. Unsafe. Scared. Sad.
Ever feel that way?
Let’s think of a common example together.
You’re invited to a party a friend is having. It’s a big deal.
You’ve also scheduled some really important time to be alone, relax, and recover.
You want to choose you, and you want to choose them. And you choose them, because it’s the right thing to do. Or is it? Both choices are right, but both choices feel bad. How?
You feel bad because you LIKE your friends and LOVE to celebrating them.
You feel bad because you KNOW you need rest and BELIEVE that you’re worth the time.
But, you just can’t decide, and when you do, you might feel guilt, shame, indecision because there’s no middle ground. Or, at least there doesn’t seem to be any place where both things can happen or where one thing can happen and the other thing doesn’t make you feel bad. Sometimes I swing heavy to one side or the other because I’m afraid of the other side. I’ll get really selfish and say things like “I deserve this time, I just can’t go.” Or I’ll get really flippant about my own value and say, “it’s just a day, I can go to the party, we can sleep when we’re dead”. Both responses–while human–and okay sometimes, aren’t helping me much lately.
I hear in my mind:
You can choose the party.
Or, you can choose your health.
It’s been the way I’ve thought for a long time. I’ve always wanted a middle ground in these types of situations and sometimes there are ways to honor two ideas or goals at once. But sometimes you can’t. Then what?
Enter the magical three letter WONDER word….
My counselor suggested, “let’s try replacing the “either/ or” thoughts with “and” thoughts?”
Instead of saying,
You have to turn down a party or you have to turn down alone time.
Why not say something like.
“I feel bad that I can’t attend the party, AND I know that I need this time to continue to be healthy (to be a good friend).”
Both things can be true, and one thing can be priority. It’s okay to feel sad to miss a party, AND it’s okay to choose a mental health day over a party. Acknowledging the feelings helps us choose between them.
The word AND acknowledges the felt truths on both sides.
The word AND validates a persons feelings and needs.
The word AND makes room for grace.
I’m starting to think that….
….AND is a bridge where feelings can cross without fear.
I feel like this little tool, this little nuance in our thinking could change so much.
I’m thinking about my own thought life.
I’m thinking about the way I parent and offer my kids help.
I’m thinking about youth ministry and the kids who come to me conflicted.
I’m thinking about volunteer leaders.
I’m thinking about important meetings and important decisions.
I want to offer my kids this option.
“AND” gives them a place to feel heard and validated.
“AND” honors their struggle
“AND” helps them to communicate the why behind a decision instead of feeling like they need to hide in shame.
Questions to think about:
- How do you think “AND” could work for you?
- How do you think “AND” could help you land a decision in a way that feels safe and healthy?
- How do you see “AND” working as you listen and guide others through decisions, crisis, or trauma?
(I realize that some of you are reading this and you’ve known this way of life for a long time. You’ve discovered the power of AND, and feel secure making choices and are really good at sharing this word with others. You are confident, caring, and helpful when you exercise care for yourself and others in this way. You’re kind as you listen to others–validating feelings and affirming truths, while still asking the world’s best questions. Maybe you didn’t know that this was a strength of yours? My guess is others around you could benefit from you sharing your secrets.)