Sitting amongst a group of ladies a few years ago, I witnessed one woman making unkind remarks about a man who wasn't there. She continued to disparage the guy until one bold lady shook her head at her and told her the same thing I'd been thinking.
"You're being awful," she remarked, while gently reminding her how long she'd been criticizing this person undeservingly.
To my surprise, "lady one" softened. There were no more ill words spoken about the man. I might add, "lady one" and "lady two", were, and still are, close friends.
I have a lot of things I'd love to share that I don't. We all hold back the truth, now and then, for various reasons. Maybe we don't want to risk hurting someone's feelings. We may be sure that the truth will not be accepted or understood. The truth can throw a kink into relationships or cause us to be rejected.
It may be the truth when I tell my husband I'm sick and tired of him leaving his socks by the couch. It can be honesty that I'm speaking when I tell my daughter that what she's wearing doesn't flatter her figure. What if I tell that person on Facebook (that I don't even know) that the statistic they shared, on what causes the most deaths in the US, is flawed?
Is honesty always the best policy?
We've all heard these two great rules of thumb...
That thing that you're about to say:
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Experience reminds me to include this...
- Is there timeliness in your honesty? Is it necessary to share what your sharing...right now? (versus when there is more privacy or maybe when the person you're needing to be honest with isn't exhausted or already defeated)
- Do you love the person with whom you're sharing the truth? (Or do you just find it important to get the right information out there?)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1
Through the years a few adults have corrected (spoken truth to) my children when they were misbehaving. Most times I have been thankful. Other times I've been madder than an old wet hen. Sometimes their timing was off and it seemed their goal was to make a spectacle of my kids more than that they were pointing them in a better direction. A time or two I didn't feel they'd been the least bit kind. Often, something else was missing in their telling of the truth.
An important prerequisite to truth sharing, especially the difficult kind, is investment.
Hopefully we always respond to the truth, but we respond better when the truth we need to hear is coming from those who have poured into our lives. What reason do we have to believe a stranger? What weight should we give to words shared by someone who hasn't seemed to give two flips about us. (It seems as if their goal is simply to be right.)
Truth can feel like a withdrawal. The truth-teller is taking something away (a belief we had, our sense of comfort...our pride). Withdrawals are easier to suffer if there's a balance (of love) left over. Personal investment provides the proper cushion needed for speaking difficult truths.
As Christians we know the greatest truth. We are sinners in need of a perfect and gracious God. By no means should we keep this to ourselves. Instead we should share this valuable information patiently and lovingly.
Jesus is truth. He's also serves as the greatest example of personal investment, pouring out his very life for the sake of ours. Anything he asks of us, any difficult truth he asks us to swallow, he has more than covered with his steadfast love.
We can share the truth. Let's just give a little more of ourselves while doing it.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6