Back in high school English I learned that when the word and begins the second part of a sentence it adds to the meaning. When the clause starts with but, it implies a statement of contrast and usually of rebuttal. Often the but begins the real meaning. Any prior words set the person up for what we want to say.

“You have so much talent, but …”

“You are beautiful, but …”

“You have a brilliant mind, but …”

I’m trying to avoid those statements. Especially not to say them to the people I love. If I want to add anything other than a period after “I love you,” I need to rethink what I want to say.

To add words, I’m discounting, judging, belittling or perhaps simply not accepting. “I love you, but your voice is too loud.” “I love you, but you need to dress better.” Those words imply rejection.

The people I like aren’t perfect. If I accept people I also accept their imperfections. “I like you.” “I love you.” Both times I want that to be the end of the sentence unless I add, “and you’re a good friend.”

This became clear to me a few years ago when, with a dozen couples, Shirley and I played a game at a church social. Each of us who didn’t know the game went into a room one at a time. When I came out, I was asked, “What does Shirley consider your worst fault?”

“She doesn’t think I have any.”

They laughed.

When Shirley came in, they asked, “What’s Cec’s worst fault?”

“He doesn’t have any.”

This time they didn’t laugh.

What they didn’t understand was that Shirley and I accept each other as we are, not for what we can make the other into or for the potential we see. We love the person who now is.

I wish I could say that I never add but in talking to others, but I’m not there—oops. I’ll revise that sentence: I wish I could say that I never add but in talking to others, and I’m working on it.

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