We have all been told to tell the truth in life. We tell our kids it’s important, we get mad when politicians don’t, and we may even go so far as to say, “Well, it says to speak the truth in the Bible,” as if that verse gives us carte blanche to say hurtful things.
The fact is truth can sting. It can cut like a sharp knife through all of the prettiness and fluffy feel-good things to get right to the marrow. But what makes a person think that speaking in such harsh ways helps the other person to deal with the truth being spoken?
Lies. We are often told they are from the Devil himself. We vilify people who take the truth, or what may sound like the truth, and wrap it up in such a way that the truth is lost and right and wrong are distorted.
The in between. Speaking truth with words that are so euphemistic that the words that need to be heard are soften to the point of ineffectiveness.
So how do you speak truth? First, recognize the place you are in when you want to speak “truth.” Are you tired, angry, hurt, frustrated, are you just speaking to have shock value or some other kind of reaction? Then please, don’t speak. Do not open your mouth until you have gotten to the root of the issue. By being silent and reflective, it saves you and the other person from having to heal a lot of unnecessary hurt.
When truth must be spoken be clear, precise, and be kind. I don’t mean euphemize to the point that the meaning is lost, but I do mean share the truth from your heart. Tell the person what you have seen, why it matters that truth is spoken, what you hope will be a benefit from the truth telling and make sure you tell the other person that they matter.
Truth-telling isn’t meant to be target practice so that you can find the sweet spot which causes the most damage to another person’s spirit or psyche. Truth-telling is suppose to build trust in a relationship. It is suppose to keep two people (or more) clear of impediments that will prevent deeper, more meaningful growth from occurring.
The other part of truth-telling is that it can be messy. Truth-telling can begin with shouting– but never, never, never let it stay there. Get control of your emotions. Truth-telling definitely can have tears with it. Ladies, running mascara can smear, but the vulnerability behind it that may bring that deeper, finer growth is worth washing your face.
Sometimes truth-telling requires re-capping the conversation to make sure the key points are understood. Sometimes truth-telling requires a safe third party to keep the conversation on track and to help keep the truth-tellers from deviating to devastating hurt they have caused in the past.
As to the Scripture people will often quote. The verse says, Speak the truth in love. Love is what makes the difference. If you are speaking from hate and hurt then by all means–don’t speak, don’t speak. Not until you have calmed down and are more rational. Irrationality is one of the worst places from which to speak truth, so don’t do it.
Make sure to cover your truth-telling in prayer. Especially if the words are difficult to say. Ask God to protect the time you meet with the other person to keep ears and hearts open to heart the truth.
Pray, speak, listen, pray some more. Repeat. It’s amazing how when done correctly, truth-telling is a very good thing.