The first time I heard someone describe the idea of helpful, kind, and true as a grid through which to filter speech, I was enthralled. What a wonderful way to teach children how to know what to say and what not to say!
I began to weave this phrase into my mothering, asking my children to check their words and tell me if what they were saying was helpful, kind, and true. They quickly latched on, and while we all get it wrong from time to time, it became a powerful tool that guided our speech.
My children are no longer little, and parenting looks different than it did when some were in diapers and others were using phrases like “stupid pants” or “booger face.” It was obvious then how to curb speech, and everyone understood the rules.
Now, things are dicier. My children are capable of causing real harm with their words, as we all are. When agitated or annoyed, they can lobby an insult that can stop me in my tracks or say something that might technically be true, but is neither kind nor helpful. The grid that guided me with my littles is serving to be equally beneficial as my children mature.
As we continue to parent our older children, I am learning more and more the value of the helpful, kind, true rubric. And not just for their sake, but for mine as well. Children often shine a light on areas where we need growth, and it is humbling to realize I too need to check what I say before it comes out of my mouth.
Speaking to one another with love requires a mix of all three elements. Just because something is true does not mean it needs to be said out loud. This is especially true when it comes to considering whether or not something is helpful. Helpful speech is the first guideline we tend to abandon, thinking that truth wins out and makes obsolete any other consideration. But helpfulness is where we need the most attention, asking ourselves who benefits from what we are about to say.
As I was thinking about speech and how to govern it well, not only in our parenting, but in our own lives, I began to think of our online behavior and communication as well. How lovely of a place would the internet be if everyone used helpful, kind, and true as a grid?
If we required truth, perhaps we would fact-check sources before posting them and abstain from hypotheticals and hearsay.
If we required kindness, we might take more care with our tone, going above and beyond to make sure the reader knows are words are written with kind intentions. No more sarcasm, biting remarks, or rude observations.
If we required helpfulness, I think half of the internet might evaporate! Comment sections can be brutal, and helpfulness is rarely called upon.
The beautiful part of helpful, kind, and true is that when we use these before we communicate, and when we teach our children how to use them, we are modeling wisdom. Wise people know when to speak and when to remain silent, and this system will provide a path forward that is paved with wisdom.