the one word that kills closeness

Remember that old singsong saying about sticks and stones breaking bones? Yeah, I don’t buy it. I think it’s an outright lie. Words hurt. Often. They even hurt others when we weren’t trying.

So class, today’s word is one of those “lazy” words we may say often without giving it a thought.

It’s just one word. And it’s only three stinking letters.


We’ve all had it happen to us. Someone has spoken “the word” to us. And, yes, we have likely spoken “the word” to someone else.

There is an appropriate way to use “but” (a bit more on that later), but we don’t use it in the best way most of the time. (See what I did there?) In terms of parts of speech, it’s a conjunction. In the gospel according to Me, it’s used as a discouragement or dismissal of what someone else has just shared. And the speaker is rarely aware that’s what they’re doing. And, the listener is hardly aware as well, but… the listener feels the discouragement or dismissal.

“But” can be slowly destructive to a relationship, and it will kill the closeness to be sure. The listener feels slighted at best, and scorned at worse. Have you ever had someone say, “Yeah, but…” That’s a pretty direct message that what you have just shared has been deflected or dismissed by the speaker. That’s how it feels, anyway. In marriages, a huge step forward in terms of closeness and communication can be achieved by using a different word in place of “but”.

Fix it. Use the word “and” instead.

It will accomplish the same thing. “I hear what you’re saying, and I want to add another thought/idea/perspective.” Often, when we use the word “but” it is out of habit. We don’t mean to dis our conversation partner, but we do. By using the word “and” you still get to share your thoughts and feelings without creating a resistance or resentment on the other person’s part.

Pay attention to your “but reduction” plan. When used properly, the word “but” will intentionally trump a negative or unhealthy thought or feeling. “The world may tell you that you’re not worth anything, but God says you are a one of a kind design, reflecting the glory of your Creator!”

Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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