speaking the truth in love.
— Ephesians 4:15
Being truthful with others is one of the most important qualities the Lord has taught me over the years. Ephesians 4:15 tells us we are to “speak the truth in love.”
As the leader of our ministry, I expect my team to be honest with me and to speak truthfully. Even if I don’t always like what they say, their honesty guarantees a clear and truthful relationship between us.
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However, if someone on my staff were to tell me one thing and then tell a fellow employee something entirely different, it would create distrust between that staff member and me. If that happened, I wouldn’t know whether I could really count on that team member to be honest with me.
This is precisely what the Bible is talking about when it says that those chosen to be deacons cannot be “double tongued” (see 1 Timothy 3:8). The Greek word for “double-tongued” is dilogos, and it means, two-worded. It presents the picture of someone who says one thing to one person about a situation, but then says something altogether different about it to someone else. This “double tongued” individual is either inconsistent in what he tells people, or he is just simply dishonest.
Sometimes this characteristic of being “double tongued,” or two-worded, indicates that a person is a people pleaser. He wants everyone to like him, so he agrees with whomever he is with at the moment. This person may be concerned that if he takes an opinion contrary to his immediate audience, he will lose favor or influence with them. So instead of speaking his true convictions in an attitude of love, he finds himself violating his conscience. Beyond just remaining silent if he doesn’t agree with something that others say, he actually verbalizes agreement with those in his presence, knowing that what he says is not really what he believes.
This trait of being double tongued is a serious character flaw. And the Bible is very strong in telling us that a person who possesses this trait should not be used in leadership. A leader who tells the pastor, “I believe you’re right” and then tells the church members, “I believe the pastor is missing it this time” is not being a blessing to the pastor. In the end, he creates confusion and suspicion.
It’s a blessing to always know where I stand with a person and to never wonder if that individual really means what he or she says. When I can always count on a person to tell me exactly what he or she thinks, a foundation of trust can be established that is very important if we’re going to build a long-term relationship in the ministry.
My team is very honest with me. Because they are honest with me, I trust them incredibly. I know I can depend on their straightforward, truthful responses. Denise and I are visionaries — we are “idea people”! But we need the perspective of others to help us see all the details that must accompany a vision in order to bring it to pass. We need their honest input in our lives. That’s why God sent us our team.
Please remember on this subject of truthfulness that we are called to speak the truth in love — not to “bludgeon” each other in the way we communicate what’s on our minds! We must ask God to teach us how to present the truth in a manner that makes it easier to receive.
One reason that truth is rejected is the inappropriate way it is sometimes packaged. When truth comes bundled with harsh tones of judgment, criticism, and condemnation, it can cause the recipient to put up a wall of defense as a safeguard against the attack. But when truth comes wrapped in patience, tenderness, and love, it is much easier to receive.
This does not mean honesty is always easy. Taking the path of truthfulness can be very difficult. However, it is always the clearest and most noble path to take.
Sometimes the biggest challenge we face in this area isn’t speaking the truth; it is speaking the truth in love, as Ephesians 4:15 commands. So let’s look in greater detail at the manner in which we are to speak truthfully with each other.
In my own experience, I’ve learned that the truth in itself isn’t as hard to hear as the wrong way in which it is sometimes spoken. I think you know that cold water thrown in your face would not be a very enjoyable experience. In fact, it may be such a chilling encounter that you become tempted to respond in kind and throw water right back!
When you are required to confront someone and speak the truth, remember the principle of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you (see Matthew 7:12). In other words, be mindful to speak the truth in love to that other person as you would want to have truth spoken in love to you. Ask yourself this question: How would I want the truth spoken to me?
If you’re in a situation in which you must confront someone with the truth, imagine how you would respond to that same truth if it were being presented to you. Then try to picture what would help you receive it in the easiest way that would bring growth to your life and be a blessing. As you ponder these ideas, what you discover will create a path for you to follow to speak the truth in love into someone else’s life. As you follow that path, you will most likely end up treating that other person correctly — with dignity and respect — as you tell him or her what you perceive to be the truth.
If you are the one in charge in your family, ministry, or organization, you must set the example by being truthful with the people who live, serve, and work under you. When you are truthful, people will know you are being straight with them. Even if they don’t like everything you say, they will know they can always depend on you to tell the truth when they need to hear it and not “fudge” about it. If you are truthful, you will set the standard for integrity, truthfulness, and trust among all the members of your team.
Certainly, my own teams in Russia and the United States have many areas in which we can grow more. I’m not claiming that we carry out speaking the truth in love perfectly, but we sincerely attempt to walk honestly and openly with one another. I need what my team members have to impart to me — and they need what I have to impart to them! I personally count these people very valuable in my life and ministry. I want to do everything I can do to obey God in my attitude and conduct toward them — and that includes speaking the truth in love.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Heavenly Father, I find speaking the truth in love to be difficult. I don’t always know how to do that effectively, and at times I’m concerned that I might hurt someone’s feelings or that I may be rejected. To do what I’ve read today will require a higher level of spiritual maturity in my life. Holy Spirit, I am asking You to help me know when to speak, when to be silent, and how to speak the truth in a way that is truthful, loving, and a blessing to those who listen to me. And help me to be open and receptive when people express the truth in love to me too!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am honest with people about the things I express to them. I do not lie. I do not shade the truth, but I kindly and lovingly answer them in truth. Because they know I am truthful, they trust me and know that they can always depend on me to be truthful with them. Likewise, I confess that I am grateful when people speak the truth to me. God gives me the grace to listen, and He gives me the wisdom to discern what is true and what is just their opinion. I need truthfulness and honesty. Therefore, I choose to accept other people’s candid relationship with me as a blessing to my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Are you honest in your relationships or do you conceal what you really feel about things? Maybe you’re afraid to be honest. What is the root of that fear?
- How do you feel when someone lovingly tells you the truth about something? Do you appreciate it or do you resent it?
- When was the last time you really expressed truthfully what you felt about something, and what was the response to your truthfulness? Did you tell it in love or did you bludgeon the listener(s) with your words?