This past week, our Daily Wisdom challenged us to nurture the prophet within. One of the roles of a prophet is truth telling. The call to practice truth telling is not simply a moral mandate, it is way of living.
We live in a culture that often reduces truth to that which is convenient. Spinning is the norm. Cutting corners—cheating—is common practice (after all, everyone does it, don’t they?!). Engaging in gossip and rumor abounds in our communities, even (let us admit it!) in the church. At best, our culture exemplifies a sliding scale of honesty.
In order to speak the truth, we must first be truthful. On a daily basis we must work to avoid habits that lead to exaggerating, rationalizing, and gossiping… all to make ourselves look better. In our daily examination of self, we need to confront the lies we tell ourselves. This includes both the tapes we play inside our heads that leave us feeling worthless, inadequate and unloved, as well those lies we tell ourselves to avoid confronting our sinfulness. Scripture is clear: the truth will set us free. Such freedom involves not only repentance, but confession.
With regard to “telling the truth in love” to others, Lewis Smedes offers some helpful wisdom. As he notes, it must be pertinent to the situation. In his words: “A politician ought to speak the truth about public matters as he sees them; he does not need to tell us how he feels about his wife. A doctor ought to tell me the truth, as he understands it, about my health; he does not need to tell me his views on universal health insurance. A minister ought to preach the truth, as he sees it, about the gospel; he does not need to tell the congregation what he feels about the choir director. [Telling the truth] does not call us to be garrulous blabbermouths. Truthfulness is demanded from us about the things that we ought to speak about at all.”
Truth telling begins with holding ourselves accountable, and only then inviting others into that accountability. Truth telling is not unloading everything to everyone nor it is ever “tearing down” others. Rather, the practice of truth telling involves speaking the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way for the right reason… beginning with ourselves.
Practice: This weekend, take some uninterrupted time to assess your honesty. Think back over the past week. Where have you been tempted to stretch the truth, take advantage of a privilege, break a commitment or gossip? What do you see about yourself? Where is it hardest for you to tell the truth? Write a prayer of confession or confess your sins to a trusted friend. Ask that friend to pray for you (Source: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).