Six Steps to Speaking the Truth in Love
Ever been attacked by someone who wields truth like a club? I have. And ouch, did it ever hurt!
Or maybe you recall the childhood rhyme, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Do you remember chanting that childhood accusation at the slightest hint of a lie? Children may be quick to compromise the truth on their own behalf, but they are often merciless in demanding it from others. And painfully, lies told to us in childhood can powerfully influence us in adulthood.
Before we criticize others for their dishonesty, perhaps we should take a closer look at ourselves. How often have we justified telling less than the absolute truth? Have you ever told yourself that a lie is okay because you want to spare someone else’s feelings?
Sometimes the truth is just plain inconvenient. Maybe you’ve had a family member answer the phone with “She’s not here” while you stood three feet away? Or called in sick to work for a “mental health” day? Perhaps you’ve been less than forthright about the reason for that missed contract deadline or failure to prepare for a class.
Most of us can probably recall a time when we were less than 100% truthful. We may have exaggerated the truth, told a partial truth, or told an outright lie.
A distinct divide separates truth and lies. Even so, lying is one of those sins that has somehow worked its way to respectable status in our culture. We even use substitute words so we won’t have to face the fact that we’re speaking a lie. To ensure that we feel good about ourselves, we no longer call our actions lying. Now we tell untruths, equivocate, exaggerate, fib, mislead, misstate, misrepresent, tell stories, prevaricate, feign, pull the wool over your eyes, fake, or pretend—and this isn’t even a complete list!
But those labels don’t change how God views anything less than the truth. The Ten Commandments prohibit lying. The book of Proverbs speaks of the evils of deceit.
Why has God taken such a strong position on speaking truth? Perhaps because Jesus is described as being full of grace and truth. Or that Jesus described Himself as the way, the truth, and the life and described the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. Maybe it’s because Jesus called the devil the “father of lies.” Or that Jesus said worshipers of the one true God must worship Him in truth.
Truth is not a what, truth is a Who. The nature of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is truth, while the nature of the devil is deception. If we say we belong to God, we must become like Him or we will become like the devil. There is no middle ground.
So if Jesus is truth, and we are called to be like Him, truth must be foundational to our relationships. Still, we can’t proceed with honesty in our relationships until we allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light of truth into every corner of our own hearts.
As we’ve already seen, God takes lying seriously. But it’s not enough to just speak the truth to ourselves and others. While speaking truth is critical to healthy relationships, we all know people who use truth as an excuse to be self-righteous. It’s easy to wield truth as a club, beating everyone in our path. But those who belong to Christ must not separate truth from love.
To do this:
- Pray first, before we speak a word or even think about speaking a word!
- Wait for a right motive: when your motive is love for the other person and a desire for their good rather than your own elevation or vindication.
- Wait for right timing. Have you prayed about it? Are both participants calm?
- Select a right location, one that provides privacy and protection from distraction.
- Choose right words: avoid pushing the other person’s hot buttons.
- End with a right conclusion: offering support and encouragement for the other person.
Speaking the truth in love requires intentionality!
Who is God calling you to speak lovingly and truthfully with today?