A decade ago, I heard a piece of marriage advice on a talk show that has stuck with me. As a couple was talking, the host stopped them midconversation to point out their sentence structure. He followed up by saying that when there is a comma followed by the word “but” the listening spouse should pay attention, because what is on the other side of that “but” is what matters to the one talking.
We could have Italian for dinner, but I was thinking Mexican.
I’m glad you finally made it to the children’s game, but you were so late you barely saw them play.
We say what we think needs to be said first and then say what we really mean after the “comma but.” In those moments of our conversation, we communicate what we deem as important, and the listener should pay close attention.
I don’t make a habit of picking up marriage advice from the television, but this particular point often plays in my head as I talk with my husband. I realize that often I do say what I want to imply after the “comma but.” I also notice that when I use it, it is often to convey disapproval or disappointment—a soft way to deliver a blow, so to speak.
I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that, but it makes me angry when you look at your phone when I’m talking to you.
That’s a nice gesture, but I would rather you buy me something I like rather than something you like to give me.
John 16:33 is an excellent source of encouragement and also an example of putting this “comma but” principle into practice:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (NASB).
Jesus is telling us what he has to, but he doesn’t want our focus to remain there. There is a “comma but” before his most important lesson: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” He is offering us hope and encouragement in spite of a harsh truth. We will face trouble, but pay attention to what comes after the “comma but.” The main point here is that we should take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.
I want my words to reflect the love and kindness of my Savior. When applicable, I want whatever follows the “comma but” to usher in peace and comfort. I want the most important part of my sentence to be words that extend grace, forgiveness, hope, and consolation.
We are going through a rough time, but this won’t break us.
I’m sorry you feel discouraged, but let’s trust in the One who will never fail us.
I am hurt, but I forgive you.
I remember a Christian cliché that I first heard as a little girl in church: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” Very appropriate for this week with Easter on Sunday. Our husbands might be experiencing a “Friday” that’s plagued with trouble. Let’s use our words to offer them encouragement that “Sunday is coming.” Let’s use the “comma but” in our sentences to communicate unconditional love and sweet encouragement.
~ Sharing with the Grace and Truth Linkup.