Love can only thrive where truth reigns
Thirty-five years ago, Sara and I had some friends over for dinner. At the end of the evening, as we walked with them to their car, the husband pulled me aside to tell me something. “Do you know that you talked about yourself all night and what you’re excited about but never once asked what about what I’m doing?”
I was embarrassed beyond words, but fortunately, I didn’t retreat to my defenses. I thought through the night and realized to my horror that he was right. I told him he was right and how sorry I was to be so focused on myself.
As painful as it was to hear, his comments were a wonderful gift to me and changed my awareness of others in every conversation I’ve had since. He didn’t have to tell me that, and he took a great risk in doing so. He could have just let the relationship whither in my selfishness, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth and let me see his disappointment. It not only gave me the opportunity to change but deepened our relationship.
Many Christians I’ve met over the years fall into the mistaken notion that in relationships “nice is better than honest” and are remiss, to be genuine for fear of whatever backlash may result. There’s often good reason for that in a conformity-based culture where those in authority respond in abusive and hurtful ways toward anyone who dares to disagree with them. Perhaps that’s why people so many people are always saying what they think the other person wants to hear instead of being honest.
Without genuineness and vulnerability, however, relationships stay superficial and become fraught with tension. You’ll find yourself avoiding people you haven’t been honest with, perhaps even blaming them for your fear of what truth might uncover. And it’s true that not everyone is worthy of your honesty or deserves access to your heart especially if they crush it with their own selfishness.
But the real power of relationships and the environment that nurtures them comes where people are vulnerable and genuine. Brokenness and fear grow in the darkness, healing and joy do so in the light. That’s why Paul wrote, “… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Growth only happens where what’s true can be expressed in gracious and tender affection. I know that’s almost a lost art in the 21st Century, but it’s worth recovering. Affection will die when people care more about ‘getting along’ than they do engaging in honest conversations.
So, it behooves us all to learn to be genuine in our engagements with people, and for us to learn how to be a soft place for the vulnerability of others. Sure, it’s a risk, every time, but without it, you’ll never discover the depth, beauty, and power that arises from being heart-felt relationships. You can start in small ways with people you trust to hold your honesty well, even if they may not see eye-to-eye with you. That way you can discover who is safe for such conversations, and I suspect there are far more of those than your fears want you to believe.