I first read about “both/and” thinking in O[prah] magazine a few years ago. Instead of approaching a situation/person/problem/issue from an “either-or” perspective, “both/and” thinking asks us to consider whether the possibilities that we are weighing as alternatives might both be true. As Martha Beck wrote in the O article:
What makes a both-and mind-set so powerful is that it takes you beyond the two choices you thought you had. It opens up new, previously unseen possibilities and opportunities.
(Karen C. L. Anderson has written several blog posts on this perspective, including this one that touches on the same Martha Beck article.)
Last week, the priest at the church I was visiting brought this way of thinking to the Gospel, and explained the both/and of Jesus.
Jesus calls us to live a much better life than we live. Jesus tells us to love not just our families and friends, but our neighbors and even our enemies. Jesus says we should give not only what we can afford, but the food from our tables and the shirt off our backs. Jesus warns that we are not only not to commit adultery, we shouldn’t even think about it–and I imagine the same goes for the other “shall nots” of the Ten Commandments!
The both/and of Jesus is that He loves us truly, deeply and unconditionally no matter how much we fall short of these ideals. He befriended and blessed tax-collectors, prostitutes, lepers, Samaritans, and other “untouchables” of his day. He greeted them not with shame or disappointment, but with love and acceptance. He loved them–and He loves us–with full knowledge that they–and we–fall short of the ideals He calls us to. His love and our shortcomings are not either-or, they are both/and.
One of the topics at Fitbloggin’ was self-acceptance, and the difficulty of reconciling self-acceptance with self-improvement. Perhaps Jesus gives us an example of the both/and of self-acceptance and self-improvement. Just as Jesus loves us despite our faults while at the same time calling us to live better lives, we can love–or at least accept–ourselves, while still striving towards self-improvement. Jesus both loves us as we are and invites us to take up our crosses and follow Him.