I was asked, “What is the best way to speak the truth in love? Truth that is potentially hurtful?”
I really wish I had the answer to that question. This attempt to answer will probably provide more questions than answers, I am afraid. A lot of that can be blamed on the fact that this question came to me in real-time. There are some things I am dealing with that may lead to conversations and I have no idea how that is going to go.
When sharing the truth about hurt feelings and trouble in relationships:
When I have a hard truth that I feel I need to share with someone, it usually comes out of my hurt and anger. For me, hurt and anger do not effectively facilitate a loving attitude.
The truth can be painful. It can really hurt on both sides of the table. The person sharing the truth may be hurting and what they are sharing is going to hurt the person with whom they are sharing.
I have some truths that I should share that I probably won’t share. It’s just too painful with too high a risk of loss.
I have some truths that I shouldn’t share that I probably will share. The pain and hurt will just get too much for me to bear alone and I will explode…and it is never with a loving attitude when that happens.
I have some truths that will stay between me and God. He will correct my perspective on the hurt and it will just become less important to me.
When in the service of a friend:
None of us want to be the friend that has to tell someone we love that we are worried about them. None of us want to risk losing someone all because we said, “Listen, I know this is going to be hard for you to hear but, I am worried about you.” “I am worried about this aspect of your behavior or that aspect of your behavior.” “I don’t think this significant other is right for you.” “I don’t believe that you should be doing this or that.” “I’m not comfortable with the path you are on.” “You’ve changed and I am worried that it isn’t for the best.”
[I’ve heard it said that it’s best to use “I feel…” phrases in these situations. I’ve found that to be helpful at times but not always the first way it rolls off my tongue.]
The reason we don’t want to be that friend is because we already know how it’s going to go. They are going to get defensive and they are going to disagree with you. They aren’t going to believe you. They are going to say you are wrong. “You have no idea what you are talking about.” “Just because it was bad for this person doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad for me!” “You’re just jealous because I have something that you don’t have.” “You’re just jealous because I can do something you can’t do.” “A TRUE friend would be happy for me.” “A TRUE friend would support me in my decisions, not undermine them.”
Then all of a sudden, while attempting to be a TRUE friend, you are relegated to PAST or PROVISIONAL friend. You may still speak to one another but it’s splintered and awkward.
For me, the question isn’t always HOW you speak the truth in love…but rather IF you should speak the truth at all. Sometimes it’s a better friend who doesn’t make waves and is just there to help pick up the pieces if it all falls apart.
The only answer that makes any sense…(yes, it’s the Sunday School answer):
PRAYER…about what to say/what not to say/how to say it/when to speak/when to be quiet
PRAYER and WISDOM…reading Proverbs. It’s supposed to be the book that gives you wisdom.
That’s all I’ve got.
Sometimes, you PRAY and then speak the truth in love – out of a genuine concern for the other person.
Sometimes, you just keep your mouth shut…and PRAY.