A ‘But’ Can Make a Big Difference in Your Mental Health

You need a ‘but’ to enter your narrative of ‘and’s’.

The large leather strap slammed down on my primary school desk and made my 7-year-old body freeze with terror.

Mrs G was the one teacher every child in Wellsford Primary School did not want to have. I had been quietly writing some sentences out when the tyrant crept up behind me, strap in hand. She looked over my work and asked me ‘What’s the margin doing there?’ to which I innocently replied ‘It’s always been there’.

That strap came down so hard on my little desk that I think the whole class shook. I wasn’t being smart or cheeky, I was being honest.

I wonder now if that was my first experience of being shamed.

Why do I recall that so vividly?

Someone with power took a liberty to shame me, to rob me, to vent their own internal issues out on someone else. I was robbed of the delight of writing.

I believe my writing went into a grave with a headstone saying ‘Here lies a budding writer, killed by grumpy Mrs G, and covered with the dirt of shame’

But …

  • My high school teacher Mr Johnston really liked my essay.
  • When I preached as a pastor I would write out my notes and hand them out. People would share them with their neighbours or read them again and again. I would get positive feedback and encouragement.
  • A friend, Tash McGill, suggested I write a blog. blog and helped people find a ‘but’ moment.
  • Turning the Page and has helped others find a ‘but’ moment.
  • People liked what I wrote and supported me through Patreon enabling me to go to a writing workshop with Joanna Penn. (just a shameless plug/ invite to support me on Patreon)
  • Other people noticed how I write, and I now write content for them.

Every ‘and’ of destructive shame
needs to be met with a ‘but’ of encouraging hope.

You could write your own story of ‘and’s’.

And this happened and that happened. Then this happened and that happened. On and on it would go until someone steps across your path and introduces your soul to the word ‘but’.

But is a word of contradiction …
it changes the direction things are headed. Randy Olson

In the story of the Man in the Ditch, aka The Good Samaritan, Jesus lays out the scene of a great story.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, [and] who stripped him, [and]  beat him, and went away, [and]  leaving him half dead. [and]  Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, [and] he passed by on the other side. [and]  So likewise a Levite, [and] when he came to the place and saw him, [and] passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  Luke 10:30 – 33

That three letter word of ‘but’ changed the life of that man who was dying of ‘and’ abuse.

I whimsically wonder if Jesus did a pregnant pause after speaking the word ‘But’. Letting the word linger in the air before he went on. Inviting the tension of the story to build up to a peak before he went on and gave it the next crazy turn of events.

That ‘but’ was like a hinge on which the whole story swung. It was going totally in one direction and then it shifted to take another route.

‘But’s’ have a habit of doing this. Of shifting us from one course to another.

Making the most out of the word ‘But’.

  1. Look for the ‘But’ moments in your life
    We’ve all had them, and it just takes a moment of reflection to find them. You can have ‘buts’ that have been positive and provided a good course change in your story.
    You can also have ‘buts’ that weren’t welcome. You were going along fine then something happened that actually robbed you of life and altered your life journey in a negative way.
    Some of those ‘but’ moments may not have been welcomed at the time but upon reflection, you now see they have been brought to good purpose.

    That’s why we can be so sure
    that every detail in our lives of love for God
    is worked into something good. Romans 8:28 The Message 

  2. Look for opportunities to bring a ‘but’ into your own life now.
    Life can become too comfortable. We continue on the way we are going because it’s known to us. Could it be a time to have a change of direction so that later in life you can reflect and say ‘But I chose to …’

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less travelled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    Robert Frost

  3. Look for ways you can support a ‘but’ change in others journeys. 
    The Samaritan of Jesus story was the needed neighbour. Hope grew in the dying man because of the intervention of the Samaritan. Is there someone that you can offer help to that needs a ‘but’ change in their life?
    Let’s be clear that this man in Jesus’ story needed rescuing.
    Not everyone needs rescuing but everyone needs a friend who will encourage, ask empowering questions and help to take roads less travelled.

    To strengthen the muscles of your heart,
    the best exercise is lifting someone else’s spirit
    whenever you can. Dodinsky

The word ‘but’ can be the reflected upon ‘fork in the road’. A place of momentous life change. Mental Health can be altered through the embrace of the word ‘but’.

Quotes to Consider

  • Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind. Dodinsky
  • Nothing changes the human heart so deeply as to look bad in the presence of love, to be seen with all that is wickedly ugly about us and still be wanted, more to be delighted in. That’s grace. Larry Crabb, The Papa Prayer
  • Christ taught us that the supernatural love of our neighbour is the exchange of compassion and gratitude which happens in a flash between two beings. Simone Weil. Waiting for God.

Questions to answer

  1. What ‘but’ moments have changed your life?
  2. Is there an invitation for you to make a change? To have a ‘but’ moment of direction alteration.

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Tirza van Dijk

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