Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Truthfully speaking

In a (secular) conference I recently attended, one of the sessions emphasized the importance of good communication, more specifically the importance of honest communication. The session was titled "Absolute Honesty," which actually was something of a misnomer. The speaker offered the following scenario: your daughter comes down the stairs on the evening of her first prom and asks how she looks. According to the session speaker, no matter what she looks like, you will lie through your teeth if necessary and tell her she looks beautiful. Therefore, there are those instances when absolute honesty isn't always the best communication tool. To make his point, he offered other "sticky" situations where the honest path isn't always cut and dried.

So, he drew the conclusion that while honesty is critically important, sometimes it is better to lie, hence we must decide under what circumstances we will lie. Those of us participating in the conference were instructed to think for a moment about the parameters under which we feel a lie would be justified for us personally and then share those parameters with another participant at our table.

You can imagine that I was a little uncomfortable with his line of reasoning. As I told the person sitting next to me at the table, I am more black-and-white than that. Certainly the situation with the daughter on prom night would be an awkward one, but I don't see it as a complete argument for lying. There would have been history there. I would have a relationship with her, I would have helped her pick out a dress--and besides that, unless she is dressed entirely inappropriately (a different issue altogether) what parent doesn't see her daughter as beautiful?

The conference speaker shared his own parameters for justifying a lie and I wish I had jotted them down. He mentioned the outcome of the situation--would it be affected by a lie? Does the end justify the means? Would anyone be harmed or hurt unnecessarily by the truth?

In our small group Sunday night a similar discussion arose. Again, the topic at hand was honesty, and rather than a daughter whose feelings may be hurt by not being considered beautiful on prom night, we were contemplating the more difficult situation of a friend and fellow believer caught in sin. One member of our group insisted--and I completely agree--that any confrontation be done in the right spirit. She's right, we must be humble and free from judgment or condemnation or any sense of superiority. But I don't think it is our attitude in confrontation that is the problem.

I think the problem is we don't confront to begin with. We fear offending. We fear hurting someone's feelings. We fear they won't like us anymore. Confrontation is messy and it is difficult. It's far easier and way less risky to just whisper about the problem with others and hope that maybe the offending party will somehow wise up on his own.

The conference speaker said we ought not be confrontation avoiders nor confrontation seekers but confrontation accepters, and he's right. We must accept the fact that confrontation is necessary, not just in the context of business which was this guy's main emphasis, but also for healthy relationships.

But confrontation isn't just necessary, it's Biblical. God's Word instructs us--commands us--to speak the truth in love. It's love that dares to call sin, sin, and seeks to beckon the wayward brother or sister back to the love and mercy of our Father. If I love you, I will seek your very best, and what is always best for us is to deal with our sin in honest confession and repentance. God Himself does no less for us through the conviction of His Holy Spirit, His kindness leading us to repentance.

I hate confrontation just as much as you do. Probably more. I've told you before how insecure I really am and confrontation serves only to put my insecurities in overdrive. The few times I've felt the Holy Spirit leading me to confront another were awkward, to say the least. But occasionally I've been on the receiving end too, and I am incredibly grateful for the friends whom I can trust to shoot straight with me.

As God's people, we are to be people of integrity whose words reflect honesty and truthfulness. Let's love each other enough to speak the truth. In humility and gentleness, let's pursue reconcilation and restoration. Let's be ministers of God's grace.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.
Gal. 6:1

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20


  1. Lisa, thanks for this entry. I don't like confrontation either, but I really appreciated how you reminded me that even though it is difficult it's Biblical and necessary.

    "Let's love each other enough to speak the truth. In humility and gentleness, let's pursue reconciliation and restoration. Let's be ministers of God's grace."

    That resonates with my heart too, thank you for sparking my thoughts with this today...

  2. Great post, Lisa. You write so clearly about this issue.

    But I must say, I come from the other side of the fence. Many churches I've attended in the past have been run by The Confronting Police. They confront everyone at all times about all things. Their critical and judgmental spirits have poisoned many.

    Not that I disagree with your post. I don't! Everything you said is reasoned and backed up by Scripture. And surely, there are many cases where the wanderers need Godly counsel to bring them to restoration. Just sharing my two cents.

  3. Kelly,
    Thanks for your comment and the chance to clarify somewhat. I totally get where you're coming from and I think you're right on. We need not be confrontation avoiders nor confrontation SEEKERS but confrontation accepters who accept the fact that honesty is necessary between friends, spouses and believers. I was writing merely from the backdrop of my own experience (as do we all) and I realized even as I was typing that there were others with an entirely different background on this issue. For both of us, the issue is the same: let's speak the truth with love and gentleness, confronting where necessary, exhorting where necessary, remaining silent where necessary, all under the leadership and direciton of the Spirit.

    Thanks so much for stopping by posting your thoughtful response.


  4. great, wise and necessary thoughts!!

    i grew up with "confrontation police" in churches and now attend a church where confrontation seems greatly avoided. happy medium, anyone?! :)

  5. Thanks Lisa - this is a great, thought provoking post. I tend to avoid confrontation like a plague - but, when it is inevitable, I pray and let God guide, afterall He will never guide me in the wrong way.

  6. You are speaking to the avoid confrontation at all costs person over here. But I know that there are times that this can't be avoided or shouldn't be avoided. Thanks for this post. Elle is speaking to the same issue...

  7. These are good things to think about. Thank you for writing them so clearly. I, too, struggle with feeling insignificant and I hate confrontation, too. But I do know there are times we need to do so in love to help a fellow believer. Our church is in the midst of a sticky situation right now, and these are timely words, indeed.

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head...doing this IN LOVE is the key and not from a place of cold-hearted judgement.

    I think it would be amazing to have friends who cared enough to confront me with love.

  9. I think you hit the nail on the head...doing this IN LOVE is the key and not from a place of cold-hearted judgement.

    I think it would be amazing to have friends who cared enough to confront me with love.