The Art of Telling the Truth Well – Part Three


I have been in church circles my entire life. Thus, I have been in countless Bible studies, small groups, and ministry teams. One small group in particular once lauded the guideline of “no gossip” but then added the caveat that “we can share anything in this group as long as we don’t repeat it outside of our inner circle.”

Needless to say, this small-group-turned-collective-consciousness eventually self-destructed. As members would meet in twos or threes outside of meeting times, they felt uninhibited when sharing their thoughts about the other members who weren’t present.

Nobody wants to be a gossip, yet a common excuse for gossiping is this very justification: “It’s okay to tell my friend, or group of friends, because I know they are trustworthy and wouldn’t ever repeat it.” Basically, in the name of confidentiality, anything goes.

This rationalization is the root of much slander.

A friend’s ability to keep a confidence is not the right criteria for determining whether or not I can share a story or situation with them.

A better question to ask is: Will my words negatively alter their view of the person I am talking about? If the answer is “yes,” then I choose to keep quiet. If I reveal a truth to my friends, co-workers, or neighbors, which alters their view of the person I am talking about, then their ability to “keep a confidence” is a moot point. Damage is already done by sharing information that affects someone’s perception of another person.

Who is the right person?

If we feel that we have been wronged in some way, then the person to go to is that person – without going to friends or family members as a “sounding board” first. These so-called “sounding board” sessions provide fertile ground for gossip.

Who is the right person?

If we are concerned about someone who, we think, is making a harmful choice – harmful either to oneself or others – then we prayerfully and privately go to that person to share our concerns, but only if we have a genuine relationship with that person.

A rebuke is difficult enough to hear from a friend. And a rebuke from someone, who we know does not truly care about us, is just plain hurtful.

Confrontation, even godly confrontation, is never easy. When the prophet Nathan went to King David to confront him about the sin in his life, Nathan must have been afraid for his life because he didn’t come right out and accuse David of the sin in David’s life. Instead, Nathan told a parable, one that paralleled the reality in David’s life (II Samuel 12:1-14). Thankfully, King David listened and submitted to the man in authority. (Can you imagine being in spiritual authority over a king?)

This is why a genuine, caring relationship between the parties involved is foundational to these kinds of difficult conversations.

In terms of relationships, who else would you say is
the right person to tell your truth to?

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

4 thoughts on “The Art of Telling the Truth Well – Part Three

  1. In view of the above, it is little wonder that Proverbs tells us that –
    “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
    Proverbs 10:19 

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