Confession: I have deleted this and rewritten it more times than I would ever like to admit. Seriously, I have spent more time shying away from sharing this post than I have spent showering in the last three months. But something clicked with me yesterday. I realized that the reason I keep deleting it and rewriting it is because it is because I really need to share it. Speaking the truth in love is an idea that gets tossed around like a buttermilk pancake, and it’s time we put it on the plate, cut it up, and dig in.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent most of my (christian) life with a pretty concrete idea of what it means to speak the truth in love. I really believed that it meant bringing correction or saying “hard” things that others needed to hear, but doing it in love.
That is, I used to believe that.
Over the last couple of years, I started to notice a trend. I noticed it mostly in my own life, but I saw it in the lives of others as well. I noticed that in times of deep struggle, there was a common language used to remind me of the ways I was failing or needed to improve. I heard more times that I can count, “because I love you, I just need to speak the truth in love.” That statement was followed by a way in which I was doing something wrong or needed to improve. I was being told something less than perfect about myself that I already knew.
For about a year, I just nodded and smiled, not having the courage to speak up.
Finally, this past June, I reached out to a mentor and mama friend that is always full of sound wisdom. I asked her something like this: “Have you ever had enough people tell you things about who you are that you start to believe them?” I was at a pretty low place, and I still have not processed whether that was due to family dynamics, delayed postpartum depression, or pure loneliness. But I knew that enough people were correcting me and calling me out in every area of my life, and telling me things about my own heart and motives, that I was starting to believe that there was no good in me.
My mentor replied back with a long and powerful message, and while I would love to share every detail about that, she made a statement that rocked my world.
“Speaking the truth in love has become a license in the church for us to shit on one another.”
I remember every feeling I had as I read that message. Something clicked inside me, and I realized what speaking the truth in love really means.
You see, when we are in a low place- when we are struggling and walking through the lowest valleys in our lives, we are often well aware of our struggles and our shortcomings. We hear the lies that are pounding on heads and hearts, reminding us of all they ways we will never measure up, and we often know very well the ways we have fallen short. We spin on the axis of self criticism and doubt, knowing all too well that we are less than perfect. We are darn good at criticizing ourselves and keeping a tally of all the ways we can do better.
What we don’t know is the truth. What we forget is who we really are. In the midst of all of our own self doubt and criticism, what we don’t need is more reminders that we are struggling with doubt and self criticism and that we need to stop. What we do need is a reminder of who we really are, along with a side of outrageous love in the midst of those struggles.
The value of speaking the truth in love is only there if it speaks to the truth of who someone really is. The value is lost when negativity is dumped on a person, leaving them to process how another person has reminded them of all the ways they already knew they failed.
And here’s the eye opener: Those things are not truths. They are facts.
And while it might be a fact that we have failed in an area, the truth is that we are not failures.
When we think that we are speaking the truth in love by stating the facts to someone, we are neglecting the higher calling in the concept of speaking of the truth in love, which is build one another up.
Reminding someone that they need to improve in a certain area doesn’t build them up. Telling them that they are greater than their struggle does.
And while I do think it’s important to bring correction, to sharpen one another, and confront issues when necessary, when need to stop doing those things under the premise of speaking the truth in love.
Speaking the truth in love should never be a license to shit on people and tell them all the negative things they already know about themselves. Instead, it should always be for the purpose of calling them to a higher place, speaking to who they really are, and encouraging them to be the best version of themselves possible.