The Art of Telling the Truth Well – Part Five

“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.” *


There are many motivations for saying what we say and doing what we do. To elevate myself by demeaning someone else is, of course, a wrong motivation. However, most of my motives are less conspicuous and more sophisticated than this.

Generally speaking, true intentions are muted through subtle rationalizations. In fact, whenever I begin to justify my words or deeds with rationalizations, I see these efforts as a red flag.

I have learned that one of the best ways to insure that I share the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way is to make certain that I am sharing for the right reason.

What do I really hope to accomplish by telling a certain truth?
What is the end result I am aiming for?

Even when I am seeking something good, like justice in a particular situation, I must be sure that I am not also wrongly acting as the judge of another person. God alone is Judge.

The Bible portrays a powerful example of this in the Book of Jude.

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” – Jude 9.

Seeking justice in this particular situation, the archangel warred against the epitome of evil but refrained from uttering a single word of accusation! Instead, he fought for justice while leaving all judgment in the hands of the Lord.

What would the Body of Christ look like to the rest of the world if we truly upheld the cause of justice and defended the disadvantaged without slandering others in the process? God calls us to do good by loving others while letting Him dispense judgment.

By “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Thus, maturity and growth as a believer is gained by speaking the truth in loving ways.

Telling the truth can be complicated sometimes, but following these five checkpoints helps me to ferret out my true motivations. Whenever I am unsure as to whether or not I should repeat something, I prayerfully run through these five things in my mind: Is it the right truth, to the right person, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason?

I haven’t achieved the art of honesty with absolute perfection, but I am moving in the right direction. The sun rarely sets on my day without me praying: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Do you have a checklist or filter that helps you determine when to speak and when to remain silent? How would you encourage someone 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.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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