2014-12-09 - Speaking Difficult Truths
Originally Published 2012-08-28
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." (Ephesians 4:25)
How often are we given permission to be truly honest with each other? How often do we ask for feedback and really want it? How often do we choose to go to someone important to us and say, "There's something I have to tell you?" How many of our loved ones feel free to tell us how they really feel? Maybe some feel way too free to share their thoughts, emotions and opinions on anything and everything. Most of the time, though, we don't want to be honest with those around us, when it comes to difficult truths.
Difficult truths can be about ourselves or about the other person. We don't want to hurt another person's feelings, or for them to be upset with us. We don't to admit we've done wrong, say we're sorry, and face the hurt or anger they will express. Honesty is vital for relationships, though. Its important to know when and how to speak the truth, but speaking it is essential.
There are times when we know that speaking the truth is essential, because of how we feel inside. Other times, we know because something outside ourselves brings about the need. Sometimes, the weight of what is not being said feels heavy and burdensome. The awareness of it won't leave us alone. We can't get away from the reality. It begins to create distance between us and the other person. Telling a difficult truth might damage the relationship, but trying to keep the truth inside, when we know it needs to come out, certainly will.
We can pray for wisdom and a positive outcome, and that the other person's heart would be open to what we're about to tell them. We do our best to plan for the confrontation, and to be ready to express our thoughts and feelings as clearly and compassionately as possible. Then we push through our fear and mixed emotions, to carry out what we know we have to do. We know it's the right thing, feel spiritually led to do it, and know we can't avoid it. No matter how the other person responds, there is a certain amount of relief when we've said what had to be said.
Another situation when truth telling is important is when someone in our lives asks us for our honesty. "You can be direct with me. I want to know what you really think." Those words, spoken with all sincerity, don't get said often enough. When someone does say that to you or to me, we should receive those words as an honor and a compliment. They mean that the other person trusts us enough to seek out our perspective. They mean that person trusts us not to deliberately use that freedom to hurt them or tear them down. They are making themselves vulnerable, and honestly trying to learn about themselves and grow.
When someone makes this kind of statement to us, they're saying, "Don't just tell me what you think I want to hear. Tell me the truth." This is both a gift and a responsibility. Someone asked me to be truthful recently, in regard to a personal behavior pattern. I was aware of not wanting to hurt their feelings, while at the same time knowing they really did want me to be honest. I asked for time to think about my answer, because I wanted to give genuine thought to what they were asking. I took the request for feedback seriously, and wanted to give the question full consideration. I wasn't stalling or trying to dodge, nor hoping they would forget and not bring the matter up again. That would be cowardly and unfair on my part.
I believe God rewards appropriate honesty. Part of the reason He created us for real and long-term relationships is so that we get close enough to see each other's faults, and to challenge each other to be and do better. He wants us to be in relationships that are close enough so that we can truly "see" each other. We gently confront when needed, and allow others to do the same to and for us. That's how we grow. No matter how self-aware we try to be, we will always need other people to help us see ourselves accurately. This is not comfortable - but it is necessary - so that we can fully become the people God has made us to be, and so that we can address how we get in our own way a lot of times. We will listen, if we are wise, and take to heart the feedback we're given by those who truly care about us.
All scripture references are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.