A little sign in my office often draws double-takes and curious looks. In fact, it’s not always immediately readable, looking more like Chinese characters than an English word.
It’s one of those rectangular signs created with strips of wood to configure a single word ~ often saying “smile” or “love”. But the one that sits on an ottoman in my counseling office says, “Nevertheless.”
Many folks over the years have asked good questions about its meaning ~ questions that most often have led to surprising, fruitful, and interesting conversations.
My usual response to those good questions is to reflect the question, asking something like, “What does it bring to mind for you?” I know, you’d expect that of a therapist. But I’ve been deeply impressed and respectful of the insightful responses from my amazing clients.
For example, some have surprised themselves with an interpretation of future hope despite severe current suffering. “I am truly going through a very dark time. Nevertheless, I will not live this way for the rest of my life. I have been through dark times before, and have grown through the pain.”
Others have found that our word “nevertheless” helped to ease the impact of a painful relationship. In the aftermath of cruelty, betrayal, or loss, some have spoken wisdom like, “Yes, this is a huge, wrenching injustice that has rocked my world. Nevertheless, it does not define me. My worth does not depend on that person’s opinion of me.”
The courage and wisdom of these remarkable people continue to enrich my appreciation for the strange little sign sitting silently on the ottoman, and the powerful word it contains.
Part of that power, I believe, is that “nevertheless” connects two truths. The suffering that precedes it is not minimized in any way by what follows. The presence of evil on this planet, and the miracle of redemptive hope ~ these are both fully true. Our word “nevertheless” is useful for holding them in tension, and living to tell the story!
Woven throughout the book of Psalms in the Bible, we find King David bitterly lamenting his experiences with persecution, injustice, and raw evil. Then, by the end of the Psalm, he almost always concludes his anguish-filled cry with thoughts like, “Nevertheless, You are God, and I’m not.” Or, “Nevertheless, I will still choose to place my trust in You.”
It’s a word that lifts my chin and my eyes, straightens my shoulders, and puts breath in my lungs when the chips are down. What an encouragement it is that many others who have gained the beautiful “wisdom born of pain” would say the same!
How might “nevertheless” take root and bear good fruit in your life today?