It is easy to draw a bright line on an issue. I suppose we like the clarity of either judging someone or giving them license to do whatever they want. But truth AND grace together takes a bit more effort.
To put it differently, it is natural just to curse the darkness. I have seen countless emails forwarded that simply take personal shots at national leaders. On the other hand, far too many of us shrug shoulders at the accelerating decay of our national identity. Our responses are too excessive–harsh or light.
Grace AND truth are hard to keep together. The AND-part is what trips us up. We know how to hammer people and we know how to let them off the hook. But how do we hold people accountable in a gracious way? How do we extend grace while remaining anchored in the truth? Here are keys to speaking the truth in love–to keeping AND in your vocab.
Speaking truth in love requires…
Relationship – When Churchill heard the very self-righteous Sir Stafford Cripps had given up cigars he said, “Too bad. They were his last contact with humanity.” If we respond only to an issue in general with no direct knowledge of people it affects, then we likely will wield truth as a weapon. Truth needs to be applied to people, not just blasted out into the abyss.
Authority – You are not the “captain of your soul,” as William Henley claims. It can be hard for any of us to yield to an authority outside ourselves. “Who are you to tell me not to do this?” we hear. And yet we know a shared sense of right and wrong sets us apart from from the beasts. Anyone who has ever cried “foul,” presumes upon a common standard. It is a given. And yet, when it comes to being held accountable ourselves, we are capable of some pretty far-flung acrobatics to avoid it. I once heard some say, “I stopped paying attention to the Ten Commandments after the Crusades.”
Tone – It is a pain to be called out by somebody, especially when the other person is right. But have you ever been confronted and gotten the impression that the other person was taking a personal risk for your sake? People are often trying to one-up each other. How often do you meet someone that knows how to be genuinely empathetic even as they draw a line?
I saw an example, in a place I would least expect it–a cable news debating show. The subject was the rising trend of “serial-monogamy.” Usually shows like this have personalities pulling hard from the far left and right to get the fireworks started. This is what passes for public discourse these days. But this scene was different. Instead of having a tense, polarized tennis match, one key voice in the debate understood all about “AND.” He knew truth and loved people. Instead of wagging his finger in the face of his opponents who stood for serial monogamy, he took a very different tack. He said, “I am not telling everyone to do it my way. I am saying that if you have tried it your way and have found only pain and loneliness, then you might consider approaching relationships by a standard that has been set for centuries.
When was the last time you tried to win someone over rather than winning the argument?