"Yes, and..."


“All the world’s a stage,” my mom would tell me. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized my mom’s philosophy of life was a quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Agree or disagree with the sentiment, there are things we can learn about relationships from the theatre.

Growing up in Los Angeles in a theatre-minded home, I did quite a bit of drama (both on the stage and just in life). My mom founded and operated a children’s theatre company for more than 30 years. So, I was on the stage from the time I was a baby, until I rebelled to play sports in my late teens.

My favorite thing to participate in were the improv exercises. I loved having to think on my feet with others and, I confess, I craved the attention I would get from making others laugh (even if they were laughing at me rather than laughing with me).

There is a principle in improv that I believe would serve us well in forming relationships. It’s referred to as the “Yes, And” practice. Simply put, conversations (and skits) go much better when we build on another’s statements by replying, “Yes, and…” rather than, “No, actually…”

The idea for improv is that when you respond “Yes, and…” you keep the scene going, whereas, “No, actually” ends the scene.

“I’m heading out to the Lakes, you want to go for a walk with me?”

“No, actually I’d rather stay home this morning.”

[End scene]


“I’m heading out to the Lakes, you want to go for a walk with me?”

“Yes, and how about we pack a lunch to enjoy while watching the soccer games after we walk around the lakes?”

Pretty simplistic examples, but you probably get the point. “No, actually” stifles the communication and the possibility of interaction on that topic, while “Yes, and” provides for a seemingly never-ending possibility of ideas and communication. Sure, there’s a time and place for both responses, but if we want to form relationships of mutual trust and growth, we might consider taking a cue from the stage and leaning toward “Yes, and” in our posture.

It seems like we live in an ever increasing, “No, and” culture where the scenes (relationships) draw lines around disagreement. Ever read the comments to a Facebook post? We live in a time of heightened polarity in opinions and views, where we are more prepared to speak our minds than to listen to others and find agreement.

The “No, actually” posture, while necessary at times, is not the soil for trust and relationship. Sadly, I have learned this from my own experience. I have tended to think that the most helpful way to relate to my wife or kids is to correct where they may be off in their thinking or practice. For too long, I have been the “No, actually” guy in our home. I could share story after story of my failure in this area. The end result being obvious. When the kids would share ideas and discoveries, they’d go see Jill. If they wanted answers to their roadblocks, they’d come to me. In effect, I’d become the fix it guy when they couldn’t figure it out, rather than the collaborator in their creative process. And let me tell you, being an expert is lonely.

What if we were free to enter into relationships with a creative, “Yes, and” response? How might entering into the lives of others with this perspective stir up connection in a relationship? Instead of feeling -- like I have -- the need to correct people, we were free to enter into their -- and our -- process of discovery? We would be free to be humble learners whose lives speak the greatest truth about us: we don’t have it all figured out and that’s okay!

So often in the New Testament accounts, Jesus entered into the lives of people with “Yes, and” posture. While he knew the hearts of people -- knew their motivations without them sharing a word -- he entered in with them. Certainly, there were times when Jesus would “No, actually” people. I tend to think he reserved those times for when people were pursuing things that would not ultimately be in their best interest as humans created in the image of God. But for the most part, Jesus seems to be entering into conversations with people, being knit together with them in relationship, rather than just being the answer-man.

Perhaps Jesus didn’t feel the need to always correct people because he knows the truth about people. Humans are broken and flawed, every one of us. Yet, we are immensely loved by a perfect God who is in the business of drawing us in to our greatest good. The gospel, is the greatest, “Yes, and” one could imagine.

We ask, “Can it be that I am forgiven for all the things I’ve done, failed to do, and even will do?”

To which the gospel responds, “Yes, and even more, you are welcomed into table fellowship with Jesus forever. No more separation, no more shame. Endless, ongoing, creative purpose and bliss. Together.”

For me, recognizing -- not just intellectually -- that Jesus has spent my entire life “Yes, and-ing” me into a new life and perspective, I am free to lay down my correction-focused behavior. I am free to relate to other in love. I am free to “Yes, and” with others as we journey in relationship.

Perhaps Shakespeare -- and my mom -- are right. All the world IS a stage. The world is a place where we get to participate in the great unfolding story of God. We aren’t mere actors reciting the correct lines. We are participants learning and discovering the unfolding beauty of God’s story in all our lives.