Truth telling seems pretty easy. We learn early in life that our parents just have a sixth sense about when their children bend the truth.
But the reality is, even when our intentions are good, exaggerations, gossip, and the bending of truth can very easily slip into our dialogue. In today’s world of alternative facts and fake news it seems like telling the truth has a lot of flexibility. Having your words land somewhere near the truth can feel subjective and interpretative.
This isn’t new. In the Garden, Adam and Eve fell into the trap of warping the instructions God gave them so that they convinced themselves it would be ok to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And to make matters worse, when God asked them about their behavior they tried to hide from God and lied about what had happened. The remaining 99.2% of the Bible is about God trying to help humanity recover from their lie.
Most of the time, we manage to not tell outright lies. Most of us have enough wisdom to know that maintaining lies and keeping secrets leads to death. But many of us have tendencies to stretch the truth in the name of marketing or spinning truth to support our agenda or promoting an opinion as fact in order to bolster our own world view as the one right way. Gossip can consume us as we play office politics or try to improve our own position in the eyes of others.
But Jesus offers us a different way to speak:
“Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”
Matthew 5:37 (The Message)
How would our conversations be different if we chose words to be as precise and truthful as possible instead of looked for ways to be slightly vague or misleading? What dialogues would we edit out of life if we stopped participating when we realized the primary purpose of the conversation was to put down another person?
In an effort to grow in your ability to tell the truth, reflect on these questions:
When has telling the truth cost you something?
When are you most greatly tempted to bend or omit truth to shape information that will benefit you?
How have you been affected by the honesty/dishonesty of your friends and family?
This week, how can you commit to avoiding gossip and/or being bold in the way you share the truth with others? Remind yourself to stay as close to the truth as you can.
Don’t feel defeated when you realize you have bent the truth. Instead, acknowledge to yourself (and maybe the other party) that you didn’t present your understanding wholly. Recommit to standing squarely in the truth.
By living in the truth you may find that communication comes more easily and that you have a greater amount of freedom of thought.