“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16
I’m a believer in speaking the truth in love. I think it’s really important to have a council of friends that will speak honest words when honest words need to be heard. There are just times when you need someone that you know will tell you the truth, even if you’d rather it not be so.
I, myself, have the gift of being able to deliver bad news or criticism rather tactfully (My humble opinion of course). This probably stems from my desire to never hurt anyone’s feelings or have anyone be upset with me. It also happens because my analytical mind tends to turn situations over and over in my head and examine all of the outcomes before I act. “How would my friend feel if I say it this way? If I tell her this is what’s wrong? If I share this news with him?” Also, I believe that many times, people would ultimately rather know or learn the truth as soon as possible so someone may as well share it.
This can apply for minor situations (do you know that there are people who actually won’t tell you that there’s something in your teeth? That’s ridiculous. If someone has something in her teeth or if her hair’s all crazy or if her zipper’s down or if she has a great big spot on her shirt, you should let her know–NOW!), but also for bigger problems and situations.
I know I’d ultimately rather know the truth, even if it’s hard to hear. No one likes to receive criticism, but if that criticism causes you to improve a skill set, to be a better person, to live a fuller life, then it’s ultimately a good thing to allow others to offer their honest opinions and criticisms. There are friends I trust to do this and friends I do not trust to this (much like when I ask Jason how I look and he automatically replies, “You look great” without even glancing up–I don’t trust friends who always tell me I’m great, things are fine, everything’s perfect to tell me the truth). I have friends that I know I can go to and seek honest opinions and assessments.
Because I hope for this from my friends, I try to offer it in return. It can be hard to speak honestly and to discern when it’s time to speak honestly. Of course there are situations when it’s better to keep quiet. A person that’s about to go on stage to sing a solo doesn’t benefit from your opinion that their voice is usually a little flat. A person who is asking for your opinion because she needs to hear kind words about herself does not need you to throw in criticism.
Sometimes, though, a person really needs to hear truth spoken with love and kindness. Dealing in truth, causes us to grow–as the author of Ephesians reminds us in the verses from chapter 4 above. Members of the body of Christ can speak truth to each other in such a way that it causes the whole body to grow and mature and become the body we’re called to be.
When I discern it’s time to speak the truth, I have a couple of rules:
1. Affirm the relationship. Make sure the person I’m talking to knows that I genuinely care about him or her and that I’m not standing in judgment.
2. Check my motive. Am I speaking up because I’m looking for my own benefit in the situation? Am I fault-finding so I’ll feel better about myself? Am I saying something hard because I am trying to make myself look good? Am I secretly glad to be sharing bad news with someone? If my concern isn’t the other person, I better keep it to myself.
3. Start with something positive. If I’m about to share something critical, I start with things that are genuinely affirmative. If I’m about to share bad news, I try to find something good in the scenario.
4. Acknowledge that some words are hard to hear.
5. I check my tone of voice. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
6. Once I say what needs to be said, I want to stick around for as long as the other person needs to talk to me. Does he want more information or suggestions? Does she need to process what I’ve just said? Does he need reassurance that he is not a bad person?
Here’s the thing: if we can learn to speak truth lovingly to each other and handle tricky situations that we might be tempted to run from, ultimately our relationships are stronger and more genuine.
I don’t really do the whole New Year’s Resolution thing (they have such a bad rep!), but I’ve decided that I’m going to cultivate friendships in 2011. I want to be a genuine, loving, honest friend.
Have a fantastic Monday!