First published November 15, 2012
I used to teach college students how to speak.
I would tell them at the beginning of the class, “When you give your speech, I will assign you a grade. In that moment, when you are completing the assignment, I will use the standards that I have established. And you will be on your own in the performance.”
I would continue, “Until that moment, however, I am here to help you. If you are looking for ideas for a topic, ask me. If you are looking for ways to approach that topic, talk it through with me. If you can’t figure out the best argument to make, stop by and we’ll consider some of the alternatives. If you can’t find an example, we can brainstorm several. If you are wondering if your outline makes sense, give me a copy and I’ll look at it. If you want to talk through the speech, we’ll schedule a time to do that.
“Don’t, of course, come to me five minutes before class and ask for help with a topic. That’s more than I can pull off, though if you did that I might even make a suggestion or two.
“I do this because my purpose is to help you learn how to be an effective speaker, to help people understand your ideas. I’m not at all excited about giving bad grades. I would rather give counsel than an ‘F’.”
I thought about my speech to my students while reading how James talked about wisdom:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Sometimes people ask me what to do. And sometimes I remember to ask, “So what are you asking God about this?” Like James said.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
This is your reminder to pick up a fist-sized rock and set it down with compassion.