This time around, we’ll take a look at truth vs. lying and also check out some ways to communicate the truth in a way that honors God and shows respect for others.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV).
Ah, speaking the truth in love! It’s an easy thing to say but a tough thing to do, isn’t it? For example, The Doctor has sometimes heard people say things like this: “I speak the truth and I don’t care who knows it. I give it to ’em straight and if they can’t handle the truth, well, that’s just too bad.”
Perhaps you’ve heard people with a similar attitude. It seems that lots of people have very little problem speaking the truth, but how many people can speak the truth in love? You see, it’s right to tell the truth but it’s possible to do the right thing in the wrong way.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV).
As we’ve said, many people don’t have a problem with speaking the truth but people often have a lot of difficulty speaking the truth in love. To illustrate this, take a minute to consider the Scripture above and answer these questions:
- When it comes to speaking the truth, do you do so in a way that is patient?
- Do you speak the truth in a way that is kind?
- Do you speak the truth in a way that is envious?
- Do you speak the truth in a way that is proud or boastful?
- When you speak the truth, do you do so with an attitude that is rude, self-seeking, angry or with a remembrance of some wrong that was done to you?
You see, if you’re going to speak the truth, you need to do it in love– you need to do it in a way that is not impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.
So let’s get practical- how do you speak the truth in love? Well, let’s set up a hypothetical situation to help answer this question.
Let’s say that a friend shows you a piece of clothing that they might want to buy and asks for your opinion. You take one look at the clothing that your friend is considering and say to yourself, “That is the ugliest piece of clothing that anyone has ever put on their body.”
Now here’s the question: do you come right out and say that to your friend? Well, that would certainly be the truth, but to say such a rude, unkind thing wouldn’t be speaking the truth in love. So what do you do? Well, you look for a way to communicate the truth in a manner that considers the other person’s feelings.
Now this does not mean that you lie to others (more on this in a minute). What it does mean is that you tell the truth in a way that builds other people up and doesn’t tear them down. For example, you might say one of the following things…
- I think I liked the blue one more
- It fits you well but I don’t think the colors are right for you
- The other one really made you look nice
- It’s not my personal favorite- you should try a few others before you make a decision
Get the idea? You see, speaking the truth in love means communicating the truth in a way that edifies people and encourages them instead of speaking without respect for other people and the way they feel.
“Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves” (Ephesians 4:25).
Of course, telling the truth in a way that builds people up isn’t always an easy thing to do, is it? We should recognize that encouraging people while telling them the truth often requires some effort on our part. You see, you can’t always say the first thing that comes to mind if you want to speak the truth in love- you often have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it.
This is why people sometimes don’t even bother and simply just lie rather than make the effort to speak the truth in love. After all, lying is so totally ingrained in society that people have almost come to expect it anyway, right? And of course, lying is often much easier than telling the truth- at least in the beginning.
People often rationalize lying by saying that they lied about something small and unimportant. Of course, the problem with this is that if you lie about the small things, how do people know that you won’t lie about the big things too? The simple fact is that telling a lie (even a small one) still makes the person who told the lie a liar. A lie is still a lie even if it did have to do with something small.
Besides that, small lies don’t always stay small, you know. Small lies have a tendency to get out of hand quickly and many people who have been caught in a lie can tell you that small lies can turn into big lies really fast.
Another problem is that lying eventually causes others to become suspicious and distrustful of the person who is lying. Wherever suspicion and distrust exists, it’s almost impossible to have close, God-honoring friendships and relationships with people. On the other hand, if you develop a reputation for telling the truth in love then people will begin to respect you. In a world where straight answers are hard to come by, people will give you respect if you speak the truth in love -especially because lying is so widespread.