Speaking the Truth in Love

Credit: Liz Carter
Credit: Liz Carter

I’ve always been a little fiery (which is a nice way of saying I don’t exhibit a lot of self-control. Seriously. They marked it on my 3rd grade report card and everything.) When I was a kid, I’d be running my mouth and Dad would walk through the room mid-conversation and drop, “speak the truth in love” into my tirade.

I’d pop back off with something along the lines of, “How ’bout I speak the truth with my boot lodged up their…”

And then I’d get in trouble.

I hated that verse and I’ve actively avoided it. It felt like just another way of saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Which itself is really just a form of, “Stop bitching already.”

But, I’ve been thinking a lot about reconciliation lately. Through some convoluted Bible-fu, I wound up in Ephesians 4 this afternoon and re-read the verses surrounding that obnoxious “speak the truth in love”.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 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. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:11-16

I think Dad (and probably a whole host of other people) gave teen-me too much credit. I guess he assumed I’d grasp the context of that snipped off verse when he threw it my way.

It’s not the truth for truth’s sake.

It’s not love for love’s sake.

It’s speaking the truth in love for Christ’s sake. To unify his church.

I can be such a bonehead sometimes.

I speak a lot of truths and I do it for a lot of different reasons. To be understood. To vent. To educate. To hold people accountable. To entertain. To avoid spending money on therapy.

But, I can’t say I’ve done much of it in love—to nourish us into the mature body of Christ. To save us from the wind and waves.

Love doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth, though. Love requires us to speak the truth. Truth and love are the bridges to atonement.

So, I’m left trying to figure out how to share what I know to be true while showing love and care for some of the other people involved who—whether I like to admit it or not—are just as much part of the body as I am.

I know that sometimes the most loving thing to do is share a hard truth. But, not in a way that tears that person down and drags them through the mud.

My little “I won’t name names” disclaimers are an attempt to protect them all, but I don’t know if that’s enough.

Maybe the first real step toward loving them is to stop protecting myself. To speak the truth about how big of a jerk I was. About how impulsive and self-righteous and arrogant and selfish and willfully ignorant I was.

None of that changes what they did, but it sure does rub that villainous glow off their cheeks.

Because how can we expect to ever achieve reconciliation if we don’t make the effort to humanize one another?

I’m about as much a damsel in distress as a pissed off porcupine and I’ve never seen anyone cackle and twirl his mustache at me.

Was I wronged? Was I deeply injured? Yeah. That’s truth.

But there’s a deeper truth there too and we’ve got to get to the heart of that before we can get anywhere.

So, I’m not shutting up. But, I am lowering my boot.

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