A quote posted on social media weighed heavy on my heart last week:
“Don’t waste your words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.”
It struck me that the perspective of not wasting words on those who deserve our silence, reflects a haughtiness of attitude that is lightyears away from God’s call to love. In fact, to say nothing at all, effectively denying the worth of the other individual, underscores the chilling observation of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel,:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
The truth is, silence is never golden when love is absent.
Instead, silence combined with the absence of love kills and has great potential for hardening hearts–
yours, mine and the one being ignored.
The problem is not new. The Apostle Paul wrote about conflict in relationships and how Christ’s followers were to handle such:
“We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves
and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men,
by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects
into Him who is the head,
even Christ . . . .” Ephesians 4: 14, 15
So what does it mean to speak truth in love? Is it to follow wisdom of Thumper in the classic movie, Bambi?
“If you don’t have anything nice to say,
don’t say anything at all.”
While that may be a sweet notion, God calls His own to go deeper in our relationships . . . much, much deeper.
To speak truth in love is not about niceties. It often requires:
Sacrificial kindness–a willingness to risk being misunderstood for the good of the other.
Speaking truth in love is a process that requires intentionality. The key to working out that process is given us in Ephesians 4:22-25,
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self, which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires . . . and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor . . . .”
Speaking truth in love becomes an art form over time when we remember Christ’s call to us:
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
It is when we take our focus off ourselves and look to Christ as Sovereign and Good, that we begin to understand the value of words. It is when we begin to choose our words prayerfully that we will bless our friends, neighbors and even that irritating individual we would otherwise be tempted to ignore.
Yes, relationships ARE hard and and at times even draining. But when we keep Christ’s call in the center of our thinking as we use words to bless others, life becomes an adventure that is interesting and full of meaning.
“Then we will no longer be infants,
tossed back and forth by . . . every wind of teaching
and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, 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.” Ephesians 4:14-15
When the miraculous working of God’s Spirit changes a human heart, it is no less meaningful than when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land. Yesterday, I was privileged to witness such a miracle. I share it here to demonstrate the beauty that is possible when truth is spoken in love:
When she walked into my office, there was no hint of the struggle that had been ongoing in her mind and heart for a very long time. I saw relief on her face, as I explained how we would be looking to the Scriptures for the wisdom and perspective needed to help her. She responded by saying that was exactly what she wanted but hadn’t known where to turn. She expressed her fear of receiving counsel that would urge her to follow her heart, knowing how doing so would devastate her family.
As she talked and I began to ask questions, her struggle touched my heart. Married and with children, she confessed her unhappiness . . . her “discontent” that weighed so heavy on her. Though tempted, she expressed her conviction–“In my gut, I know it would be wrong to leave.”
My heart quickened as I remembered a similar time in my life:
Feeling like a complete failure as a wife and mother . . . thinking they wouldn’t miss me, I had prayed: “Lord, help . . . .”
I remember,the deep silence that surrounded me before His voice spoke truth into my heart:
“Kathie, if your critical spirit would get out of the way,
my Holy Spirit would work a lot faster in their hearts and lives.”
In a split second, the pain of truth, spoken by God in love, seared deep within me . . . even as it’s light offered HOPE. It was true, MY critical spirit had been a roadblock in countless ways, but I hadn’t seen it. I thought of the prodigal son* who, “came to his senses”and returned home to the father he had forsaken. In that moment I was both humbled and grateful to God, for opening my eyes to my blindness.
As I told my story, I anxiously watched her countenance, hoping that the truth spoken to me so long ago would minister to her heart. As I watched, her face softened for the first time. She was so absorbed in her thoughts, that she did not look up until after she wrote the words on her notepad–“CRITICAL SPIRIT”. Only then did she look at me with a softened smile and (dare I say it?) a slight glimmer of hope on her face. In that moment I knew that God’s words had pierced her heart and the possibilities to move forward were limitless.
To speak truth in love is a skill that does not come naturally but is worth cultivating:
It involves risk–that of being rejected by the one it is offered to.
It is a God-thing that can only be cultivated by investing quality time with Him.
It is evidence of a mature faith–bent on replacing old ways of relating to others with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
The Bible talks about “putting off” old ways of thinking and behaving as we “put on” new ways that are pleasing to God. In the Counseling Room we look to Colossians 3 to gain insight into the process;
“Rid yourselves of all such things as these (put off):
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self
with its practices and have PUT ON the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
To put off our old ways of relating to others, the Apostle Paul urges us to check our motives:
Fear of rejection
Saying what others want to hear at the expense of truth,
have no place in how we love others. Instead, Paul encourages us on the basis of our identity in Christ (verse 12) as, “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved . . .” to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Paul says further in verses 13 and 14:
“Bear with each other and forgive. . . forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
So how can you develop spiritual maturity by speaking truth in love?
Keep Christ central in how you respond to others.
Prioritize personal time to be spent in Scripture and prayer to get to know Him better. (The Journey Notes process is an excellent way to do this.)
Join a Bible-teaching church for worship and fellowship with other Christians.
Attend a solid Bible study that will encourage you to go deeper in your faith. (Community Bible Study (CBS) has been a personal encouragement to walking my faith for over 35 years, but there are many others out there.)
Prayerfully watch for ways to honor Christ, by loving and serving others in your community.
Paul affirms this in the rest of the passage:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
All to His Glory!
*Luke 15:17, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!”