“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down….in a most delightful way” are lyrics from one of my favorite songs from the Mary Poppins movie soundtrack. Maybe it’s because I have a sweet tooth and believe that EVERYTHING is better with chocolate, but I’ve always thought there was an interesting truth in that phrase. I’ve just always like the idea that adding a little something sweet to life can make even the most challenging situations tolerable.
Teaching college English gives me many opportunities to practice adding that little bit of “sugar” to some difficult situations. For example, there are times when I have to give constructive feedback on my students’ papers. The challenge is how to be truthful without “killing” their confidence in writing. I always try to find a way to show them grace and love as I make comments on their papers. One way I’ve done this is to grade their papers in purple ink instead of red ink. I think that seeing soothing purple instead of glaring red might help to soften the impact of my comments on their papers.
I also try the sandwich method that a co-worker shared with me about 4 years ago. Like a sandwich, I start with positive comments, add a constructive one, then finish with a positive one. I start with something good “like great opening sentence,” then add “this is a confusing, run on sentence” then finish with “you make some good points about your topic in your paper.” This way, I am speaking truth about where they need to improve while, hopefully, building confidence in their writing.
In the past 9 months, I’ve experienced deaths of loved ones, broken relationships and lost friendships. Those were some very hard truths to accept. However, what made this sometimes terribly bitter medicine easier to swallow were a few things: the support of friends and the wisdom in God’s Word. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God will never leave us nor forsake us. That’s the unconditional love that we sometimes have a hard time accepting.
Sometimes I get it so wrong, but I still believe that you can say just about any hard truth to someone if you say it the right way. Some people say that they are just “keepin’ it real” when really they are just “keepin’ it cruel.” My mama always says, “It’s never what you say, but how you say it.”
We should strive to put into action the words of Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Jesus was the perfect example of one who showed how to speak truth while showing love. He started with God’s love, added the truth-our need for redemption and topped it off with the ultimate sign of love for us: his death on the cross and resurrection.
Happy Resurrection Weekend…celebrate Him because He lives!
Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.” Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.