The Art of Telling the Truth Well – Part One

While leaving the grocery store, I see a woman carrying bags to her car. She marches to the blue zone and then pauses to fumble for her keys.

Curious, I continue to watch.

After finding her keys, she unpacks her groceries in the backseat of her car – right there in a blue-painted spot.

My suspicion was right.

Selfish. Thoughtless. Inconsiderate. Rude.

These words come to mind.

Few things bother me more than seeing an able-bodied person park in a handicapped space. As the sister of a paraplegic, I understand the ramifications of this action and feel the severity of this injustice more acutely than most.

I happen to be walking right past her, but rather than let it go, I stop abruptly and glare at her.

She notices.

So while I have her attention, I trace the direction of my gaze. Slowly. Methodically. I stare at the handicapped sign and then back at her. Then, with a cold eye, I turn a stiff back and stride towards my own car. Feeling her eyes still on me, I offer a slight shaking of my head.

Without saying a word, my meaning is clear. I condemn this woman for her inconsiderate – not to mention illegal – behavior.

By the time I reach my car, the Holy Spirit convicts. But instead of listening, I argue: Me? She was the one doing something wrong. I merely pointed it out. Hopefully, I gave her a reason to think twice before parking in a handicapped spot again!

On behalf of social justice, I rationalize my actions all the way home. Then a familiar voice says, “It was the right truth, but was it communicated in the right way?”

Ugh.

Many years ago the writings of Lewis B. Smedes, a theologian and seminary professor, profoundly influenced the way I tell the truth.

“A person of integrity does more than tell people what is on his mind.
He learns the art of telling the truth well.
To tell it with love – helpfully, healingly, even though painfully –
this is the skill that turns honesty into art.

This fact takes me back to Aristotle’s recipe for honesty with style:
the right truth, to the right person, at the right time,
in the right way, for the right reason.” *

In contrast to post-modern theories of relative truth, Smedes’ words advocate absolute truth told in biblically loving ways. Speaking the truth is one thing, but speaking the truth in love is quite another (Ephesians 4:15).

Many believers who love God and wish to honor Him with their words often struggle with the art of truth telling. When difficult situations arise, we sometimes don’t know what to say or how to say it or whom to say it to.

For the next few days, I will explore a roadmap, consisting of five checkpoints, to help us know if we are heading in the right direction when we need to speak truth while honoring God with our motives and means, as well as our words.

In what ways do you seek to speak the truth in love?

* Smedes, Lewis B. A Pretty Good Person. Harpercollins. 1991.

This series is a revised and expanded version of a singular post I wrote two years ago.

6 thoughts on “The Art of Telling the Truth Well – Part One

  1. I generally ask myself, am I trying to “make a point” – or am I trying to genuinely point out the truth. This seems to help.

  2. I like that – telling the truth well. I think we have a choice; we can be a Pharisee or we can be Jesus. Thanks for this thought provoking post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s