“Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” Psalm 34:12-13
I don’t think I became a proficient liar until I became a dedicated disciple of Christ.
Before my conversion, if someone asked me what I thought about a subject, I’d tell them. I may have lacked diplomacy and discretion, and I know I needed to work on my social graces, but I was honest with my opinion. Now I think about what I say in order not to offend someone. Quite often I weigh truth against kindness, and kindness tends to win.
In other words, I lie.
The other night my wife and I were having a conversation with a friend who is dealing with a great amount of stress in her job. Barbara said, “Feel free to come over any time and just talk.”
Since I’m a pastor, I encouraged her. “Our home is a safe place for you to come and unload. Feel free to be yourself. Be angry, frustrated and hurt. Say the bad words you want and know it’s okay.”
At this point she laughed and said, “I don’t think a pastor ever encouraged me to cuss before!”
I said, “If you’re thinking the bad words then God already knows it. You might as well just be honest about your feelings. God isn’t scared of your vocabulary.”
She said, “It is so hard to be honest. When people ask me how I’m doing I’ve become good at saying, ‘Fine. I’m good.’ Even when I’m not.”
At this point I said, “It’s amazing how we have to become Christians in order to become good liars.”
I hope someone will write and tell me the origin of the idea that Christians can’t be honest with how they’re feeling. If they’re feeling crappy (or worse), and someone asks them, then they should feel free to say so. But that’s not what happens. We put on our good religious face, turn a stiff upper lip of faith into the wind, take a deep breath and spew our best positive confession. “I’m fine,” we say.
Not too long ago I tried this technique on someone. You know, the honesty technique. If you’re expelling hot air in any church in America, it won’t be too long before someone asks you, “How are you doing?” When they did, I told them. Life was hard, I was crabby, and it wasn’t a very good day.
True to form, they said, “Well, brother, that isn’t a very positive confession.”
I said, “You can have a false positive confession or you can have honesty. Which do you prefer?”
The person stumbled out a response and walked away, and I figure I probably offended them with the truth. But here’s the thing: I’d rather offend people with the truth (especially those who don’t REALLY care how I’m doing), than lie to them in order to protect their feelings. And I learned something – I feel better about myself for being honest.
I think it is a good thing to be a follower of Christ and not be a liar. No more false positives for me. From now on, when you ask me how I’m doing, be prepared to hear the truth.
this is (pants) on fire…well said Jim. I struggle with getting the balance right – to tell the truth without details to someone who’s asked but can’t handle the whole answer.
It’s no surprise that the Truth is offensive to many, in general, and “Christians” in particular. Very few humans like being held to a higher standard. Those who follow hard after Christ welcome the opportunity to grow in their walk & relationship with Christ. The truth is “there is no room for offense in the body of Christ”, yet we feel like we have to make excuses (for Him?) so as not to offend. Many of us need to leave the adolescence of our relationship with Him behind and move on to a more mature level*.
I’ve learned when someone asks me how things are going to be honest. Sometimes the answer is not too good (or life stinks right now) but God is good. If they want details, they’ll ask. If not, the superficial nature of their question has at least received an honest response.
*For perersonal study: “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges.
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Thanks for your reply, especially the part about leaving the adolescence of our relationship for a more mature level. Spot on. I’m also learning not to take offense at people who flippantly say, “How are you?” when they really mean no more than “Good morning” or simply “Hello.” Those who know me may really want to know, but I still make the error of giving an honest answer to a disinterested question. Sigh. But I’m learning. Slowly.
I don’t go out of my way to offend someone who can’t handle the whole answer, but I’ll admit that I’ve taken some weird pleasure in making people uncomfortable with both my answer to their question and my sharper answer to the surprise they show to my honesty. I try not to do that, but sometime the devil in me speaks before the Holy Spirit in me is given the chance to edit (Did you catch that I took not responsibility in that one?)!