I recently watched two coaches from the sidelines. Both spoke truth to their players, which I believe is essential for growth.

But one was kind and the other was…well, not always as kind. One affirmed all equally, one had clear favorites.

The players and team morale flourished under the leadership of the kind truth. The other team, I believe, flourished despite. Because one was building up spirits, and the other tended to break them from time to time.

I have had the opportunity to be mentored by a few good women over my lifetime. But I think of two in particular. Both spoke truth to their mentorees, which I believe is absolutely necessary for transformation.

But one was gentle and the other was harsh.

The exact same concept was imparted to me, in completely opposite ways.

Gentle: You may want to ask Jesus to show you what you could’ve done differently.

You better believe I bristled at the ALL CAPS EMAIL and breathed in deep gulps of air and mercy with the tender whispers of compassion, both trying to tell me the same thing: take a look inside and own your part.  And you better believe I didn’t quite do what the harsh person asked me to, because I instead became so voraciously defensive it drowned out her ALL CAPS words. But you also better believe I did exactly what my gentle mentor suggested, begging the Spirit to speak to me…and he did…and I looked in…and I owned things…and I was transformed.

Someone recently read an email that I sent to someone else. This email was brief, to the point, filled with truth. But this other person read it and told me I had been so mean.  (Others had read it and had not told me that, but still, I needed to take note.) I would still send that email again if the situation arose, and I would still say the same things I said, but I perhaps could have been softer.

Because here’s what I’m learning – the hard way – much too late in life…

How you say something is perhaps as important, if not more, than what you say.

I’m reminded of something I learned maybe fifteen or so years ago, that seems to fall out of my head on a daily basis. Before saying something reactionary, before jotting off an angry text, before shooting out a heated email (IN CAPS), ask yourself the following…is what you’re about to say:

*true? If what you’re about to say is just an opinion or you know it’s an outright lie, rethink it.

*necessary? Is what you’re about to say needed to be heard by the other person or do you just need to say it? Those are two very different things, though they can feel the same. If you just need to say it to say it, write it in a journal or send a fake-venting text to a friend.

*kind? If what you’re about to say is both true and necessary, then proceed with as much kindness and gentleness as you’re able to muster up.  Remember, you can catch more flies with honey. Because for me, if you’re going to be mean to me, you will hurt me, but you will not help me, and the walls of my heart will go up and I will tune out your future content. (Bullies don’t tend to have friends.)

Lastly, I’ve found lately that the more I keep my mouth shut, the less I have to apologize for. Weird, huh?

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. –Proverbs 15:1

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