Truth vs. Love
I’ve often wondered why people find me approachable. What is it about me that allows people to open themselves up, ask hard questions, and trust that I’ll be able to help them? Let me explain. Even in childhood, I can recall having friends and acquaintances come and ask for my advice or opinion about something. Sometimes it’s part of an on-going discussion we’ve had, but a lot of times it’s completely random. The questions come in a variety of different packages too. They’ll come in a text message, a phone call, an email, or through a Facebook message (sometimes public but usually private), or even face-to-face.
I believe I uncovered the reason why I get approached, and I’ll explain it toward the end of this post.
— Truth in love —
Growing up as a Christian you’ll often hear the phrase, “speak the truth in love…” thrown around. It’s pulled out of the passage in Ephesians 4 (verse 15), but what the heck does that even mean? I’ve heard it explained like this:
If you love someone, you’ll speak truth to them.
If you’re going to speak truth to someone, do so lovingly.
Until recently, I believed that either one of those answers was sufficient and likely correct. They’re certainly not wrong, but I feel as if they need to be expounded.
— Here’s my predicament —
Without getting into the apologetics of it all, truth is just that. It’s truth. It’s black and white, clear as day, plain and straightforward. There are, however, a couple of issues that I have with truth. It can be subjective and/or objective. What do I mean by that?
Well, truth being subjective is when a person takes their opinions, convictions, even their attitude, and they place those values as being true to him/herself or others around them. For example, a large part of the Christian community believes it to be wrong to consume alcohol. They’ve cherry-picked the Bible to formulate their doctrinal belief system; their *truth* that drinking is a sin.
Objective truth is impartial and impersonal to a purpose or goal. It is based on facts. For instance, if you’re in debt, and you continue to spend more than you make, you’ll remain in debt. The *truth* is that if you mismanage your finances, you’ll never know financial freedom.
The problem that I see is that neither subjective truth nor objective truth can express love. So neither of the statements that I mentioned before (If you love someone, you’ll speak truth to them -and- If you’re going to speak truth to someone, do so lovingly) really carry much merit. In the very least, they don’t give us anything to go off of.
Truth is void of love.
— So now what? —
Well, I think we have to establish what it means to, “speak the truth *in* love…”. To establish this, it might be easier to start by removing love from the equation. Just speaking the truth, or speaking truth *outside* of love can and likely will be hurtful. Unless you’re a counselor that has random people coming in to hear what you have to say on a topic, you probably shouldn’t open your mouth unless the person has approached you on the matter asking for your input. That person will probably feel judged, stupid, and humiliated. They won’t receive any love from your words of truth. In fact, they will likely perceive your *truth* as an attack.
Then how do you inject love, and when is it ok to speak the truth? I’m so glad you asked. One word – RELATIONSHIP. If you have a better relationship with your plumber than you do with this person, I can assure you that they don’t know that you love them. If you see this person sporadically, it’s possible that a loving relationship hasn’t yet been established. The absence of a relationship in which you can openly express your love for a person (telling the person you love them, showing them you love them, spending quality time with them) means you don’t have the ability to speak the truth *in* love to him/her.
I’m perfectly able to go to my wife and speak truth *in* love with her, and she can receive all of what I have to say. That doesn’t mean that the truth spoken is now rid of hurt. Remember, truth is void of love. Truth has never been equated to love. So, “…doing so lovingly” applies here. Your presentation is key. If you come across as a jerk, you are (at least perceivably).
I’m not able to approach a stranger or an acquaintance and give them my 2 cents without coming across as being judgmental or hurtful, so I won’t (writing my thoughts/observations here aren’t, and likely never will be, targeted at an individual). Nor should you. That relationship and standard of my love for that person haven’t been established (food-for-thought: knowing someone for any length of time does not equal relationship). What does that mean then? It means I need to think before I speak, and bridle my tongue. If you want to decimate any credibility you’ve established with someone, then open your mouth and tell the truth with your “tongue full of deadly poison” -or- truth *outside* of love. I can assure you that the poison will run its course and kill any relationship built to that point. Otherwise, refrain from expressing your thoughts until you both know you have a reciprocating love for one another.
— Why I’m approached —
I believe this is why I’m an approachable person: I refuse to judge individuals or the choices that they make. I’m eager, with every fiber of my being, to love someone where they are and for who they are. In fact, I desire to love and be loved in return! I also refuse to uncover a person’s flaws (real or perceived) unless that person purposefully does so him/herself. I’m confident that anyone I’ve had in my “inner circle” will speak of my loyalty and love. Unless that’s established in a relationship, you won’t find me going too deeply with a particular person. Why? Because I believe love trumps truth. I know a relationship is established when they ask the questions inviting me in. Then, and only in the confines of that established loving relationship, will I gingerly speak the truth that they’re longing to hear.
When contemplating truth vs. love, certainly seek the truth. But allow others to seek their truth for themselves, too. Perhaps we can lay our truths down for a while and focus instead on loving each other.