If I asked you to name something that meets all of the following criteria, what would you say meets them all? It is something that is well-known, sought-after, sometimes harsh, sometimes ignored, liberating and restrictive at the same time, often hard to see, and never discriminates.
Since it doesn’t matter how much I lead into this, you’ll skip down to find the answer anyway, I’ll go straight to it. The “something” that I’m referring to is – the truth.
We teach our children to “always” tell the truth. Even when it is about who broke the window or how many bites of carrots they have eaten.
We hope that others we deal with in any relationship – personal, professional, or casual – is telling the truth.
The truth isn’t always as appealing, so we spice it up with details that may not be as true, or even an outright lie. Charles Spurgeon commented that a “lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Col. Nathan Jessup doesn’t think some people can handle the truth. And, oftentimes, he is right. What we want to hear as the truth and what indeed is the truth may not always be the same thing.
So, what stops us from always telling the truth? Oh, lots of different individual reasons like staying out of trouble, not wanting to hurt others’ feelings, gaining an advantage, the list goes on for a while. But, they all fall under one motivation – we think it makes things easier, at least in the here and now.
Now, let’s stop for a second and disseminate one thing – our individual opinion is not always solid truth. In other words, your truth may not be indisputable truth. Hiding behind the “I’m just being honest with her,” doesn’t mean you are cleared to tell your sister-in-law that her dress makes her look like she just got off her street-walking shift. Telling someone they aren’t doing a good job as your child’s teacher is not cleared under the truth category because you think it is. Your opinion is just that – your opinion. Veiling it beneath a statement like, “I’m just an honest person,” or “I believe in telling someone the truth,” doesn’t alter what it really is – your take on things.
No, I’m referring to solid, irrefutable, no substitute allowed, the light’s are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the jello is jiggling. . . . truth (with a little nod to the famous Chick Hearn).
It is hard to tell someone else that they have hurt your feelings, even if it is the truth, because you are afraid it will damage a relationship. It is decidedly easier to just leave out a few details when reporting to your boss in order to make yourself look better. In many situations, we don’t take the high road, we take the paved road!
Those that know me – know this isn’t necessarily something that I struggle with. Knowing me further (and if you’ve read my blogs very long), you know that I write mainly to myself. So – why this topic for the blog?
For some of you (us) the issue is not that you shy away from being truthful, it’s in the delivery.
The Cosby Show provided us years of life lessons, so I’ll pull one from there. Vanessa brings home her new beau, Dabnis. Dabnis is a lot older than Vanessa and the head of maintenance at Lincoln University where she was attending. When she brought him home, she apologized for him, tried not to focus on his occupation, and hid the fact that they had been engaged for six months. When Dr. Huxtable finally renders an opinion on his new potential son-in-law, he states, “We just don’t like you!”
When giving an explanation, Cliff asks Dabnis to name a favorite meal. So, after a few questions, he paints Dabnis a mental picture of a Porterhouse steak, sizzling with mushrooms and onions, with fried potatoes on the side. You can almost see Dabnis drooling with anticipation. When describing how he is going to serve this excellent meal, he says that he is going to bring it to him on a garbage can lid instead of a plate. All of a sudden, all of the build up stops and the meal doesn’t seem as appetizing.
Just like this example, the key to how something is received is often in the presentation. A mouth-watering, well-cooked steak sounds fantastic. But, if you brought it to me on the lid from an old garbage can, I might not be as hungry.
So it is with the truth we hold, ready to deliver. I am often guilty of not considering the manner that I deliver the truth in. I mean – it’s the truth, it should stand on its own, right? I’m a simple person and just telling the truth has always been the right route. Gerald Ford said that a person should just, “Tell the truth, work hard, and be on time to dinner.” Easy enough.
The vehicle that should always carry the truth is love for others. I mean, when Jesus himself was asked for the greatest of all of the commandments, He gave two:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
I can also read what love IS, in 1 Corinthians. It is patient, kind, not envious, not arrogant, not self-seeking, doesn’t hold grudges, not easily angered, and honors others.
So, if my truth is delivered without considering what love is, then my dish isn’t as appetizing as it could be. Ouch.
Listening to Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias the other day, he dropped this bomb on me: “Truth that is not undergirded by love makes the truth obnoxious and the possessor of it repulsive.”
Picturing myself as repulsive doesn’t feel good. In American culture, we are celebrated for being blunt, especially when that attitude brings the truth. But, thinking of times that I know I have been truthful, but because it was delivered void of emotion or even the acknowledgment of love for my brother or sister gives me pause for regret.
So, my self-challenge today hopefully challenges you as well.
Tell the truth. All the time. Mark Twain was famous for saying “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
But, deliver it in a spirit of love. Not because it makes you weaker or scared to just tell the truth. But, because you love one another.
This won’t eliminate times that truth is hard. But, supplying it in a blanket of genuine empathy and care loves like Jesus. Which is always the goal.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”