She hadn’t prepared. Everyone else arrived that Monday night at the drama rehearsal with their lines memorized, ready to dive in. But she constantly flubbed her words, went blank, and essentially wasted our time. I could tell the cast and crew were as frustrated as I was. And the opening night performance was speeding toward us.
Finally, after she missed yet another cue, one actor sighed heavily and looked at me for back up. As the director I had to do something, but I was unhappy enough that I wasn’t sure I could carefully choose my words not to make things worse.
“Let’s take a five-minute break,” I announced. I motioned to her that I wanted to talk privately. In the hallway, just as I was ready to lay into her for her irresponsible actions, a quiet voice whispered to my soul, Be gentle with her. I breathed in deeply, paused, and looked at her.
Her tense face gave her away; she expected a tongue lashing!
Too many times in my life I’m ashamed to admit that’s exactly what I would have done. But this time, instead, I went a different direction.
“What’s going on?” I said as kindly as I could. “I know you didn’t mean to come to rehearsal ill prepared, so something must have happened?”
Tears flooded her eyes. “I’m sorry I don’t have my lines memorized. I wanted to work on them.” A sob broke from her lips. “My best friend died over the weekend.”
Gulp. I almost reamed her out, I realized. Like a clichéd bull in a china shop, storming into a situation and causing untold damage, I almost added to her anguish.
“I’m so sorry. Don’t worry, I know you’ll get there. I’m more concerned about you, okay?” I meant it.
I’d learned a powerful lesson. Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “an encouraging word cheers a person up.”
Even when we have every right to argue our case and get snippy because of someone else’s opinions or actions or lack of, our better choice is to stop, breathe, and as the Holy Spirit encouraged me, “be gentle.” Even when we want to get on social media and tell somebody what we really think (!), perhaps we do ourselves a better service by pausing and being merciful.
I’ve found that when I’m in those situations, if rather than assuming something and creating an entire narrative that justifies my anger or frustration and that may not be (and probably isn’t) true, I do better by starting with kindness and a desire to understand the other person. A simple, probing question of “What’s going on in your life?” or “Tell me more” does more to build a bridge than an angry outburst and a defiant accusation ever will.
When we learn about another person’s situation and let grace guide us, only then can we truly encourage—and only then will we avoid doing something we may regret.