“Is something wrong”? It was a simple question but left me with a choice. I could lie or tell the truth.
I was afraid of hurting or even losing a friendship if I answered that question with the truth. The easiest thing I could do was respond and say, “no, everything is fine”. I knew that if I did not address the issue, I would begin to withdraw from that relationship.
I felt betrayed and my trust had been greatly shattered. I knew that unless I would take a risk toward resolution, or friendship would be forever altered.
I decided to face the fear and address the issue. My friend became angry, but not at me, but at the fact that she had been misrepresented by a peer. The situation was entirely different than had been portrayed to me. She apologized and our relationship was deepened.
I’ve had experiences where I decided it was just too difficult to tell the truth and to address an issue. I never consider that I would be actually telling a lie when I avoid conflict and indicate that everything is fine. It’s frustrated me that it is so difficult to say, “no, things are not fine, but I’m not comfortable to discuss it right now”.
Telling the truth to your friends and colleagues
I am faced with opportunities every day to address issues with the truth or to make the choice to provide glib responses that really are lies. A quick and glib response has the potential to “seal your fate” with your colleagues.
When asked your opinion, a quick “that looks great” can make it very awkward for you to give corrective points later. You may end up with a project that you really wish you had taken the time to be honest about. I’ve learned to say “I’m not able to give that the time it needs now. I will get back to you.” This gives me time to come up with a response that I’m comfortable giving.
There are times that you may have some concerns about a friend or colleague. Our silence can communicate approval. It’s not really a lie, but then we are not really communicating the truth either.
When we don’t address issues, we are not really helping the people around us. As a parent, there are countless times that my silence has indicated that I’m ok with my teen’s choices. I find it much easier to correct my teen than I do a colleague. It’s made me wonder why it is so much harder when I communicate with friends and colleagues than my children.
As we desire to speak the truth to others, we need to realize that there are times we have a clouded perception that alters our ability to discern the truth from lies. We may have limited information and with that information, we form a perspective. This opens the door to a very clouded perception to which we can be very reactive. Take time to investigate the facts. There may be a lot more to the situation.
Why the truth is impossible to speak at times
Most adults will say that we are committed to truth. We believe that the “truth will set you free”. Why is it that we go to such great lengths to avoid the truth? Below are a few reasons I’ve come across.
- The cost is too high. When we speak absolute truth, we fear rejection, persecution and even monetary cost. It’s easier to dilute our words and not risk as much.
- We are afraid. Fear can paralyze us in so many ways. We may not even fully understand the reason for our fear but it is easier to play it safe.
- Its not culturally accepted to speak the truth. People really do want to hear that you are fine and that all is well. We are a hurried culture and usually don’t have the time to listen to the true matters of the heart. Knowing that the truth is not accepted teaches us to speak in a way that we feel others will accept.
- We don’t know how to speak truthfully about difficult things in a diplomatic way. We’ve never been taught to address issues with a gentle truth. We often feel we need to be brutally honest and that can have harsh results.
A polished delivery
Jesus desires for me to speak the truth in love and He desires to equip me with all I need to speak the truth and deliver it gently.
It sounds so simple, but it really isn’t.
Many years ago, I had a friend come to me and ask, “can I tell you some things that bother me about you?” Being a glutton for punishment, I said “yes”. The next two hours I listened in horror as every characteristic about me was torn to sheds. It took a long while for me come to grips with the fact that this person had a very altered perception of what she referred to as her “gift of exhortation”. She contacted me several years later and apologized profusely for a very distorted perception and told me that she had been going through a lot of hurt and used that meeting as an opportunity to lash out.
When you are faced with the opportunity to tell the truth to others, you should ask the question, “is this helpful or harmful”? It always takes more time to prepare for a gentle delivery than a frontal attack.
The gentle delivery is practical. It gives next steps. It is affirming in its approach. A conversation which says, “when you ____, I feel ____” does not attack. A helpful comment can start with affirmation. “You have a great way of connecting with people. I was thinking of ways that you could even help others more. “
Think carefully about how your words are beneficial to others.
Free from lies
When we learn to live by the truth, it has the amazing ability to set us free. The fear of rejection will dissipate when you begin to see the rewards of telling the truth and deliver it softly. We need to become aware that we are often not speaking the truth, then we can learn to speak it with the love that God intended.
Previously posted on Power to Change