“Yes, and…”

Posted on May 17, 2012


There is a rule in Improv called “Yes, and” which means that when you are doing a scene with someone you don’t contradict the premise that you’re given. This is the “yes” part. Then the “and” part is whatever you do or say to move the scene forward. There are great examples of people who don’t understand this concept. The reason I find these examples so funny/awkward is because they step outside the rules of Improv and show us what happens when someone clearly ignores them. But for the most part, the rules hold. If you walk onto stage and say, “No I don’t like that idea, let’s change it from a doctor’s office to an amusement park.” You kill any momentum and energy between you and other people on stage.

“Yes, and” in Parenting

Caryn and I often talk about parenting as Improv because the crazy situations you encounter unexpectedly are not that different than those that are shouted during a live Improv show.

-You walk into a room and your daughter has taken a banana of the counter without asking, peeled it, and is proudly eating it…

-You wake up in the middle of the night at there is excrement smeared over your child, his crib, sheets, and the walls….

-You realize your screaming at someone who is 1/10 your age, 1/5 your weight, and cannot even go to the bathroom by themselves…


Without the ability to accept that these are the circumstances of your life, every time you hit a bump in the road not only are you going to have to deal with the problem of the moment, but a part of you is going to cry out, “No, I don’t like that idea. Let’s go in a different direction with this scene. Instead of you running outside naked, why don’t you read quietly to your little sister!”

“Yes, and” in the Christian life.

The two big issues that unfortunately have come to define evangelical Christianity in recent times are homosexuality and abortion. I believe a fundamental flaw is that many Christians have failed to address these issue with the “Yes, and” approach. Instead of accepting the reality that 1. Homosexuals are real. 2. Many Christians are homosexual. They want to change the scene, “Let’s say that there really aren’t homosexuals. Or if there are, that they are subconsciously confused about who they are.”  Or, on the issue of abortion, “Instead you being a young woman who feels compelled to get an abortion because she has neither the funds or social network to raise a child, let’s have you be a promiscuous cackling witch who wants to kill babies.”

And to take the Improv metaphor to its logical extent; their performance often leaves me feeling embarrassed, awkward, and ready to will leave the theater at the earliest possible chance.

“Yes, and” with God

The beauty of “Yes, and” is that it is a dynamic tool. It moves things forward. It is reactive and interactive. It creates motion and movement. It validates the experience of the other without invalidating the experience of the self. Remembering this as I seek the face of God helps me to be prepared to be surprised by God. If I walk toward the presence of God and am locked into how I wish the scene to play out, then the interaction will likely be stilted and stiff. But when I am able to be open (to leave room for the Spirit to move) then I may just find that there is energy and life and I am able to touch the mystery.



Photo: ClizBiz

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