Let’s say you’re in a relationship with someone; the two of you have dated for a few months. You consider dating as the interview process for choosing a spouse. During this process you realize that your significant other does not have what it takes to be your lifelong mate, so you end it. What do you say to sever the relationship? Do you tell the person that he or she sucks and you don’t see a way you can deal with him or her for the rest of your life? Or do you concoct a gentler version of your truth so as not to completely break the other person’s heart?
What if you’re already married and you cheat on your spouse? Do you keep that secret to yourself and find some way to deal with the guilt independently? Or do you give in to your guilt and confess your indiscretion to your mate, just to get it off your chest?
If you took a survey of 100 people most of them would probably tell you that they’d rather be told the truth than a lie. But what if that truth is so brutal that it would scar the receiver indefinitely?
Listen, I value honesty as much as the next person. But I also value compassion and tact. I’d like to think that if I needed to hear the ugly truth from a loved one, he or she would give it to me thoughtfully. I can accept brutal honesty, but I don’t like it because I believe there is always a way to express ourselves honestly and with consideration for others.
Watching someone release their garbage onto another just so they can feel better makes me feel some kind of way. The bible says, in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” We also know, from I Corinthians 13:4-8, that love does not behave itself unseemly nor does it dishonor others – so neither should we when speaking the truth.
Consider the other person when you speak. If your truth will do more damage than good, perhaps you need to keep it to yourself for as long as possible. If the conversation is unavoidable, make sure you handle it benevolently. I realize there will be times when what we say will cause the receiver pain, even if we are delicate in our approach. But if your intentions are good then your message will be better received.
As a kid we always sang, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As we’ve grown into adults most of us come to realize how untrue that old cliché is. Words hurt far more than any stick or stone. Physical bruises disappear; the psychological ones stay stuck in our brains sometimes forever. So when it comes to expressing the truth or offering your opinion, think about how the other person may internalize your words before you speak them.
Up 4 Discussion..
1) Has someone ever shared a ‘truth’ with you that hurt more than the wrong they may have done against you?
2) If a truth will do more damage than good, do you think it’s best if it’s never revealed?
3) What’s the proper way to share a painful truth without hurting someone in the process?
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