John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Proverbs 16:24 – “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
I’m trying to think of a better opening line than “They say honesty is the best policy…” but I really can’t so just imagine I wrote something really profound and slightly amusing but the truth is, it is! So much of what goes wrong in our relationships with each other comes from an inability to be honest and open about what’s going on with us. When people hurt us or annoy us we have a tendency to conceal it and ignore it or express it through our behaviour towards them. If we conceal and ignore we proceed to hop around with our wound pretending not to care, bleeding all over the place.* We struggle to communicate it through our words without using the bad ones but this is exactly where it needs to come out.
I might try to excuse myself by saying I don’t trust myself to use words but that may just be a cop out. What we actually mean is we want the right to stay offended as long as we want and we want to secretly punish the other person without them being able to do anything about it. It can be hard to find the right words to confront or bring a challenge to someone and so changing our behaviour is often the easy option. Maybe we avoid them at school. Maybe we give them the cold shoulder at work or the silent treatment in the house or any another weapon of choice. Basically WE NEED TO TALK!! However I don’t actually think that what we say is the issue, I think it’s more about what’s going on in our hearts. The mouth says what fills the heart right? (Luke 6:45)
I love the way John describes Jesus as being full of grace and truth. He brought truth which is honesty but he wasn’t just filled with truth. The word grace there is also the word for kindness and I think this is where we can learn a lot about how to be honest with one another. Sometimes we decide to be harsh with people who’ve crossed us and we call it “honesty”, “being real” or even “tough love”. Often this is just an excuse for losing our temper, giving up our responsibility to control ourselves and feeling powerful by hitting someone where we know it will hurt. I do think love needs to be the starting place for everything we do including our honesty but the way we deal in honesty needs to be intentional and not flippant. When honesty shoots out of us from a place of frustration it often misses the mark and can do real damage. Proverbs 27:6 says that wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy so if we’re wielding the sword of truth it needs to be tempered and guided by love. We can’t afford to bring “truth” to the hearts of our friends or anyone else out of our frustration. Kingdom honesty is not simply the constant display of internal emotions. Our emotions need be kept in check and we’ve been given all the power, love and self-control we need to do that (2Tim 1:7).
Before we decide to be “honest” with someone that we have an issue with, I think checking the state of our hearts is pretty important. Being honest for honesty’s sake is not nearly as good as being honest for the sake of love. I often find I want to be “honest” with someone to get them off my back about something or simply because they’re bothering me. In such cases my desire for honesty isn’t for the development of that person’s life but rather for my own selfishness and comfort. My “honesty” therefore is more likely to come out sharply and with little thought or consideration of the feelings of others, it doesn’t bring peace to the person I’m sharing it with and it definitely doesn’t produce intimacy.
“If we’re wielding the sword of truth it needs to be tempered and guided by love.”
I really believe that the honesty policy does not negate our personal responsibility to exercise self-control to temper what we say with love and with wisdom and claiming it’s our disposition, our personality or our heritage aren’t good excuses. In Romans 12:18 Paul says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” so there comes a point where we can’t be responsible for the reactions of others but we have plenty of power to present our honesty fully and completely but with grace to bring peace instead of conflict. Honesty should always be allowed to marinate in love before it is served. It tastes better, it goes down easier and it leaves people wanting more. Although we may sometimes have the right to rebuke people or command them to do something, I think we can all learn a lesson from Philemon who said “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.” (Philemon 1:8-9)
“Honesty should always be allowed to marinate in love before it is served. It tastes better, it goes down easier and it leaves people wanting more.”
Kingdom honesty is an act of love and a means of grace for spiritual growth and relational development. Let’s figure out how to do it right and build each other up!
Thanks for reading.
* Click here for some thoughts on handling emotional pain.