We were in a bar in college. It was rare that my brother, David, and I ended up in the same places but this night it was a discount night at Exit/In, a famous hole in the wall bar on Music Row in Nashville. Great music and cheap beer. David looked at me intently and rubbed his finger under his nose. I must have something hanging out and he is trying to discretely tell me. Wow, how long has it been there? So I wipe it off. I don’t feel anything, so I try again, and look inquiringly at David. Nope, he wipes his again. So I work some more—of course discretely. This goes on for several rounds and I just can’t find what he is trying to show me. Then in frustration he exclaims “Where is it? I can’t find it!!!”
He thought I was telling HIM that HE had something hanging out of HIS nose, not the other way around!
While this is a funny and harmless story, I have realized this week that sometimes not speaking the truth in love gives space for misunderstanding. Sometimes we need to tell people how their actions are impacting us…and that is even more difficult, and vastly more important, than saying that they have something hanging out of their nose, or stuck in their teeth, or their pants aren’t zipped. We think people understand what we are thinking, so we don’t really need to say anything.
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. (Eph. 4:15, NIV)
This leaves room for expectations to not be met. On the outside things look OK, but on the inside, there is a seed of hurt or frustration, that can turn into anger and bitterness. I love how irritated I get at people for doing things that I have never told them bothers me! I still act nice, but let my thoughts take me in less pleasant and healthy places. This, over time can eat out the heart of a relationship, leaving it as dead as this tree. How long did this tree look healthy before it succumbed to the interior rot?
How often in communication do we skirt around actually speaking truth in love in order to save face? For ourselves or others? How often do we avoid speaking the truth in order to avoid conflict? When someone does speak the truth to us with love, how do we respond?
Jesus implores us to love our neighbor as ourself. That love includes speaking the truth in love, for the health of the relationship.
What do we need to do to keep our tree from hollowing out?
Addition after sermon at Vienna Presbyterian on 11/5:
Pastor Glenda talked about HOW to speak the truth in love. She gave this great acronym: THINK
- Is it Thoughtful?
- Is it Helpful?
- Is it Inspiring?
- Is it Needed?
- Is it Kind?
A great reminder!