“And you know shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ~ John 8:32 NKJV
I am certain that my Great-Grandmother, Dorothy Trueblood, was not the first one to say “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” but she was the first person I recall saying it to me. I am not sure who came up with it initially or who said it first, but what I am sure of is that when I heard it the first time, I did not fully comprehend the meaning. As simple as the statement was/is, there is so much more to it. In order for you to completely understand how this statement came to be in my house, you have to know my Mom-Mom. She was a tough cookie and she never held anything back, but it was never her intention to hurt anyone with her words, so she taught us that if we did not have anything nice to say, we should stay quiet. Years later, I have to admit that there are times when this still applies in my life, but now more than ever I have decided to have the courage to speak the truth in love. For most of us, being honest is no big deal – we can be honest about what we like, what we don’t, and even to some degree who we like and who we don’t, but what happens when your truth threatens the very fabric of your life? What happens when speaking your truth means letting people know how they’ve hurt you? What happens when speaking your truth means no longer settling for the mundane things you’ve settled for in the past? It’s at these times where we need to have the courage to be honest and speak the truth in love.
The definition of courage is strength in the face of pain or grief, but it also the ability to do something that frightens you. Courage is something we have all needed in the past and it is something that we will need again at some point in our lives. Some people need courage just to get out of bed in the morning and face a new day. Some people need courage to move from one city to another. Some people need courage to say what they have longed to say for so long. No matter who we are, courage is something that we all need; courage is not based on race, creed, color, size, gender, or financial outlook – courage is something that anyone and everyone will need to utilize at multiple points in their lifetime. We will discuss some of these points in my blog over the next few weeks/months and it is my hope that as we learn together and grow together we will also gain courage together.
Today’s topic, the courage to be honest, came while I was driving home. I was thinking about a situation that I was facing. I need to tell a very good friend something and I did not want to do it, but I knew that if I did not tell her I would not be honest with her or with myself. Sometimes, it takes courage to be honest and tell the unadulterated truth, especially when that truth may hurt another. It’s not always easy to say what you need to say to someone, especially when you know that person may be offended or upset by what you are going to say but that is where courage comes in.
Over the years, I have tried to learn the art and practice of listening, but one of the things that sometimes comes with listening is giving advice. Now, when we’re talking fish vs. chicken or natural hair vs. relaxed, I can do that, but when the conversation turns to the hard stuff like when the person is in the wrong and they need loving correction, or when they have done something and I know I have to speak up or having to tell people what God has said, I have to admit those conversations get a little tougher. As much as I hate to admit it, I would really rather not have the hard conversations at all. I guess I am a softy, but what I find is that most people are like that. We’d much rather things be all good all the time, however, it simply cannot be that way because we don’t live in a fairy tale. Speaking the truth in love is essential and while difficult, we must learn to communicate even the hard things so that we and others can grow. Having tough conversations are never really easy but here are a few tips that may help:
1. Pray. Talking to God before you have the conversation will help you to speak the truth in love and it will invite God in to that conversation. Seek His counsel and wisdom about the matter before you dive right into a discussion. Praying is important because there may be times when God will instruct you not to have the conversation for one reason or another, be open to doing (or not doing) whatever He tells you. *Note: If God tells you to say something to someone, say it without delay or hesitation – just obey.
2. If you are angry, delay your conversation. Take a moment to center yourself in the Lord and when you are able to speak with peace, and then come back to the conversation. Speaking in anger will never correlate to speaking the truth in love – I don’t care who you are. You have to have a cool head and not an angry one.
3. If you have trouble remembering or feel like you may get flustered, write down the points you want to make. This will help you to stay on topic.
4. Listen. Be willing to listen to what the other person has to say. Listening is a critical skill and you must use it to effectively communicate. Listening effectively means not talking over someone or showboating the conversation; active, effective listening requires a closed mouth and open ears.
5. Be open. Sometimes the moment you begin having the tough talk you will find that the other person knows already and are willing to admit their mistake and apologize, so be open to that. Sometimes being open simply means providing the flexibility in the conversation to change direction, pause or stop all together.
Bonus: Keep your ears attuned to the voice of the Lord. He may give you wisdom, insight or instruction that could help your conversation.
The courage to be honest is not always an easy thing to have but I believe that we have to do a better job about speaking up when things bother us or get in our way.
Liela Marie Fuller
Author, Mother, Friend, Believer in Jesus...Really Just Me.
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