“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” –Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
Speaking the truth in love. We have all heard that phrase. Most often, we take it to mean telling someone something they are not going to want to hear… in the nicest possible way. Akin to telling your friend they have broccoli in their teeth when they just met their new boss for the first time, it ‘aint always pretty.
So, when do you speak up, and when do you shut up? There is a fine line to walk, as sometimes our “helpful advice” is none of our business. On the other hand, sometimes we tell ourselves its “none of our business” to save ourselves the trouble. We convince ourselves we are doing what’s best for the relationship, all the while silently allowing our friend to make a terrible mistake. Sometimes we even live a lie, trying to persuade ourselves to see it their way, supporting them when we don’t agree.
But how are we going to build each other up, help each other grow, and help prevent each other from walking into potholes in the path of life if we don’t speak up? How many times have you looked back at your own life and wondered, “Why didn’t anyone point out the huge mistake I was making?!” Perhaps those are the times a random coworker or stranger looks at you in shock and outbursts, “You’re making a big mistake.” or “You’re a real jerk, you know that?” Somehow, we made it too far through the friendship filter without anyone catching our filth in the net. No loved one threw out a life-vest to save us from floating out into deadly waters. Now, here we are, being rude, with bad hygiene habits, divorced, parenting kids with behavior issues, miserable in our bad mistakes… which of course are being pointed out by total strangers. Wouldn’t you rather a friend spoke up early on to knock some sense into you?!
“If your enemies are telling you the truth, you don’t have any friends.” -Pastor David Stine, Metro Church
So, be that friend. When you see a friend or loved one making what seems to be a dangerous decision or bad mistake… first say a prayer. Ask God if this is a time to speak up. Ask God if you are the one to speak truth into this person’s life. Then, ask for the words to come lovingly, and for God to prepare their heart to receive it. Let the person know that you are speaking what God laid on your heart because you care, love them, and want to help them. Don’t judge; just carefully nudge.
Perhaps it’s a lifestyle they are living that is unhealthy, dangerous, or contrary to God’s Word. God may tell you to be silent. He may be working on a different facet of their life, or they may not be ready to receive wisdom in that area. In that case, you have to let it go. God will give you peace if you’re moving in the right direction. Instead, love them and pray for them. God may even call you to keep your distance for awhile for a variety of reasons. Be obedient to that. God may be protecting you.
On occasion, you may find a friend who is constantly negative, curses, or has some other habit that drags you down and makes spending time with them uncomfortable or unpleasant. If you are not strong enough to influence them for the better, you may need to take a break from the relationship. However, if you feel God drawing you close to them, He may be calling you to speak up. Again, pray for the words, the opportunity, humility, and for both of your hearts. Then, when prompted, speak the truth in love. If they do not receive it well, that may be difficult. As my mentor once described it, sometimes it’s like turning on a light in a messy dark room. The person was totally content, living in their chaos. They couldn’t see it. Now you turned on the light to reveal the mess! So, their first reaction is to lash out at you- and want to turn the light back off. But it’s still your responsibility to deliver that message. Once you do what God calls you to do- the rest is on them. Now the burden is on their shoulders. It is now between them and God to respond to that wisdom.
My prayer for you is that you will also be open to truth. When someone close to you has the courage to stand up, point out the broccoli in your teeth, and speak truth into your life, I hope that you will receive it with open arms. Appreciate how difficult it may have been for them to speak up. Thank them, pray for your heart to receive whatever God is trying to tell you, and then, if He calls you, obey. Thank God for friends who turn the light on, so you don’t find yourself sitting in dark, messy, chaos. Thank God for friends that throw out a life-vest and tell you the truth, so your enemies don’t have the opportunity to point out your flaws!
This is a challenging word, both to implement and to receive. We are all a work in progress, friends, so give yourselves grace. We are walking this out right beside you.
Here’s to your health!