Truth-Telling, Loving, and Peace-Keeping

Last week, I was discussing a dilemma with a friend.  I struggle with when and how to confront people with potentially painful truth, or when to just shut up and not bother them with it. I’m usually guilty of the avoidance extreme, not wanting to rock the boat. On the other hand, my friend takes the role of “truth-teller” in her family, getting stuck being the one people expect to confront those in sin, as if it’s a delegated task.  But she admits, she’s often too “brutally honest” about it. 

It seems like there are often extremes in families and in relationships.  There are the “truth tellers” who end up being painfully blunt in confrontations, about stuff that really isn’t their business.  Imagine nosy Great-Aunt Molly who lets everyone know when they are eating too much at the family dinner, or that they need to discipline their unruly children in a certain way.

But then there’s Cousin Betsy, who just wants to be everyone’s friend, and never dreams of saying anything that could be perceived as critical.  She stands by while her alcoholic mother drains down another bottle of gin, smiles, and pours her mom another glass. She’s an enabler, too worried about disrupting the peace to confront a serious problem.

I struggle because I have so few role models who walk that middle road.  They’re the ones who can lovingly take friends and family members aside and express their concern over serious issues like abuse, addictions, recklessness, and pervasive sin.  I’ve had Godly friends who speak truth in this way, but they’re so rare, and precious.

The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, describes this delicate balance, to “speak the truth in love” (4:15).  We need to speak truth, but our attitude and approach must always be loving.  Of course, how often do we speak the truth? And what is loving? Those are key questions.  I don’t walk up to every morbidly obese person I see on the street and lovingly inform them that they’re slowly killing themselves with food.  That’s too much truth.  But, I also don’t tend to share truth with loved ones struggling with addictions and debilitating sins because I’m too chicken about it, which is too little truth.  And the whole approach to being loving, it seems to change for each person and situation, and sometimes, the blunt tactic might be best.  Family interventions work this way: they’re blunt and not very private, but still manage to be loving.

And then there’s Romans 14:19, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” This can be my justification for keeping my mouth shut, even when the most loving thing to do is to speak up.  I strive for peace just because I don’t want to upset people, or face their potential wrath.  It comes down to the sinful attitude of people pleasing, where all I want to do is keep people happy so they like me. But that’s more about me than it is about them.  It seeks peace but isn’t very loving.

I’m not offering many answers here, just a walk through the delicate balance that is truth-telling, loving, and peace-keeping.  Anyone else struggle with this balance or have any wisdom to share about walking that tough middle road?


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh that we would remove the log which blocks our own sight before we endeavor to correct the sight of others.
    To ‘speak the truth in love” means God’s love…not man’s so-called emotion…love. To have the love of God in our heart, He must be in residence there. God’s love is ALWAYS meek, kind, merciful, generous, quiet, peaceful, gentle, without partiality, without hypocrisy, and is always given away through actions. God’s love allows a person to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind….and to love his neighbor as himself. Words spoken in rebuke to another without the demonstration of the aforementioned attributes….is called ‘judging.’ :smile:.

    Good post. Interesting.

  2. I’m noticing that some churches that are what are currently termed “seeker friendly” have a no comment policy about any and all behavior. Those churches do grow nicely, but I find myself squirming when I realize that the happy attendees are blissfully engaged in all sorts of behaviors that are not in their best interests. As the pastors are noticing during pre-marital counseling, couples seem genuinely shocked at the idea that they shouldn’t be living together and having sex before marriage, or kids or bi-sexual relationships. Absolutely shocked at the idea that these “lifestyle” choices are forbidden.

    So when should the seekers get clued in?

    On the other hand, I find well established traditional churches have their “off limits” sins. Feel like being verbally abusive to family members? Like to speed to church? Shack up at age 75 so you won’t loss a retirement from a dead husband? A-OK as long as you have good manners for the most part and the cops don’t show up because of your behavior. I used to feel up to addressing these things, now I just don’t care anymore. If it bothers God, He can let them know.

    Like the quote from Little Women, “Go think about your own sins, don’t go adding to mine.”

    AL: Excellent thoughts Jill. That’s one thing I’ve found interesting about the church we attend. It’s one of the fastest growing in the country, yet the pastor has no qualms about yelling at the congregation for all kinds of bad behaviors, nothing seems taboo. He gets a lot of criticism from other churches for it, though. Not a typical seeker -sensitive approach, but perhaps people crave correction on some level. Don’t know.

  3. I believe that it is not my responsibility to clean other people’s lives up. My responsibility is to live a godly life, walk with the Lord and pray for others.

    Will I say anything when a person is living in sin? Maybe I will; maybe I won’t. It depends on whether the Holy Spirit wants me to speak.

    I believe this type of attitude takes the burden off me and puts it on the Head of the Church, Jesus.

  4. I’m with Larry Who on this one :smile:. The Word of God is POWERFUL sword which can split the soul open to expose what is within. It is LIGHT. LIGHT which CAN, if allowed by the person, illuminate the darkness within the soul. But no words of ours has that kind of power. Our words are only infuriating and judgemental to the ears of another. The ‘seeker-friendly’ church, I expect, is like so many Ephesuses today…..they are doing wonderful things…but they have left the ‘First Love’ and are commanded by God to repent. Those pastors who take the pulpits speak on behalf of the Shepherd are often, themselves, continuing in sin. RIGHTEOUSNESS and HOLINESS remain the true mark of a Christian. And those who live luke-warm lives….bring forth luke-warm leadership. But no matter what the pastor or teachers within a church….each and every person is without excuse before God if he or she does not FIND the Shepherd of our souls….Christ. He promises that if we Seek…we FIND. That if we KNOWK…it will be OPENED. But our traditions and doctrines teach us that we are human and that ‘perfection’ is an unreasonable goal. But Christ the Word said, ‘without holiness no man will see God.’ We are truly not saved by works…but unto good works. AMEN to what Larry Who said, ‘My responsibility is to live a Godly life, walk with the Lord, and PRAY for others.’ That one statement is the KEY to our responsibility as Christians. One Christian cannot make another Christians. A ‘christian’ is the offspring of God….not of man. NOTHING we do can make a ‘christian.’ But living in fellowhip with Christ by way of the Holy Spirit opens God’s ears to the desires of our heart. “If ye abide in me, and my Word abides in you…ye can ask what ye will…and it SHALL BE DONE FOR THEM OF MY FATHER.’

    Therefore..the PRAYER mentioned by Larry, becomes the greatest gift one mortal can give another. Taking that ‘mortal’ before the Father of all things and saying ‘thy wil be done’….PLACES THE REQUEST FOR THE ONE IN NEED….BEFORE THE VERY THRONE OF THE FATHER.

    It is only in meekness, kindness, mercy, forbearance, longsuffering, gentleness, turning the other cheek, generosity…and LOVE of the Godkind….that we influence another towared the loving Father and away from the wicked one. LOVE NEVER FAILS!

    My heart was never so saddened as when, many months ago, I watched the news from California and saw demonstrations between Christians and gays concerning a particular law allowing gay marriage. All were yelling hateful things back and forth. One woman was waving a cross in front of the face of a gay person who slapped it from her hand. It fell the ground and the gay man stomped on it. My heart WEPT. Not because a metal graven image which was stomped into the dirt….but because those who were called themselves by Christ’s name….were of the same contentious mind as their opponents. There was no peacableness, gentleness, kindness, mercy, forbearance, meekness….and most important of all….there was no allowing God to ‘battle’ the wickedness in high places. After all, we do not wrestle aginst flesh and blood. The gays are flesh and blood. The spirit of the evil one is the enemy. ONLY GOD HAS AUTHORITY OVER HIM.

    I did not intend to be so lengthy. Feel free to read and delete. But your post is so very sincere, so very timely, and so very important since it relates to one of the most important issues of the day…the ‘fields white unto harvest.’

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