Learning to speak the truth in love
By Leslee Stewart
One of my favorite ministers, Joe McGee, once said, “Some of the greatest joys in life are things people have said to us. Some of the worst things in life are things people have said to us. Some of the deepest regrets we have in life are things we’ve said.”
Words wield amazing power. They can bless or they can wound. And our relationships are often where we see this play out. Be it between a husband and wife, a parent and child, or friend to friend, often our words are no respecter of persons.
So how do you share the truth without hurting someone you love?
You must examine your own heart to be certain what you have to share is from a place of helping, not wounding.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” A friend has your best interests at heart, whereas, even when trying to show affection, an enemy doesn’t. The NIV Quest Study Bible comments on this verse: “These wounds are rebukes or criticism intended to correct. Even though they are painful, they are of more use than the flattery or insincerity of an enemy. Somebody else who criticizes may be trying to harm, whereas friends do it to build up.”
Many years ago, a dear friend was faced with making one of the toughest decisions of her life – a decision that I believed would not prosper her or bring her closer to fulfilling the call of God on her life. As much as I loved her (still do), I knew I needed to speak the truth to her about what she was considering.
For years, she had been an “iron-sharpening” friend to me (Prov. 27:17). She had always challenged me to be a better student, daughter, Christian and friend, and vice versa. I prayed that God would open her heart to hear what I had to say, and that in saying it, regardless of her decision, we would be able to continue our friendship.
One commentary I read on Proverbs 27:6 said, “It is far better that a wound should be probed than covered. Rebuke – kindly, considerately, and prayerfully administered – cements friendship rather than loosens it. The contrary instances only prove that the union had never been based upon substantial principle.”
Wow. I so get that! Have you ever delivered the truth to someone – especially someone you thought you knew – only to have it backfire on you and the friendship crumble? In the situation with my friend, I believed I knew her heart – and she knew mine – but I was willing to risk our friendship in order to deliver the truth.
In sharing my heartfelt concern, my friend wasn’t happy to hear it. She believed she had no choice in the matter and had to move forward with her decision, regardless of the outcome. While this wasn’t thereaction I was hoping for, I knew I had to love her through it anyway.
And as I watched her walk through a very dark time in her life, I did everything I could to show her grace, love and compassion – not condemnation – as she struggled to find her way. Confrontation is never easy, but I believe the wounds of a true friend are always meant for healing.
It’s been almost 15 years since my friend and I had that conversation. The experience didn’t tear us apart. Instead it brought a new depth and respect to our relationship. Recently, I heard a poem that best expresses it:
I love you now.
I’ll love you when,
You’re hard to love,
‘Cause you’re my friend.