Saturday, August 6, 2011

Telling the truth is not enough

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
- John 14:6

"Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love."
- 1 John 4:8

When I was a kid, I learned a hard lesson. I thought that honesty was always the best policy. While I don't deny that, taking into account both of the verses above, it seems to me that honesty with charity is really the ideal.

For as clearly as I remember the other details of this story, I can't remember what year it was. I must have been between eleven and thirteen but I'm not really sure. My friend "Amber" (names have been changed) and I were hanging out nearly everyday that summer. A younger neighbor "Monica" always wanted to play with us as well. This irritated Amber and I because Monica was younger and not nearly as "mature" as we thought ourselves to be. Monica wanted to do everything with us but her mom wouldn't allow her to do some things that we were doing. So, Monica wanted us to only do what she was allowed to do so that she could always be involved. We tried avoiding her. We tried not being available. We tried hiding. Nothing worked. Finally, in our pre-teen frustration we wrote a letter to Monica telling her that we didn't want to be friends. Not only did we lash out at Monica, we also made some comments about her mom because of the way Monica was trying to restrict what we could do in order to include her. We wrote this letter, sent it, and thought our problems were over. After all, we had done what was honest, right? We didn't want to spend time with her and we thought that it was nicer to actually tell her rather than just ignoring her.

Unfortunately, Monica and her mom did not see things the same way we did. I'm not really sure what they would have preferred that we do but apparently this letter wasn't it. Monica's mom called my parents and Amber's parents and the result was my being grounded the entire summer. All for telling the truth. The whole truth.

Since that time, I'm much more careful with how I tell the truth. Sometimes, it's not necessary or charitable to use all the details. For example... (these are made up situations that could realistically happen)

Say a friend asked me how a dress looked on her... I could say
"it's not really your style, why don't you try this other one. I think that cut/color/etc. would be more flattering on you."
OR I could say
"UGH... that is awful, it makes you look like a watermelon. Seriously, you look disgusting. The red emphasizes that big pimple on your chin and it's too tight so it looks like you're about to have a 'fat baby' .. NO NO NO."
(Please note, I would NEVER say that to any of my friends... can't even imagine thinking it!) Both of these statements could be telling the truth. But only one of them is charitable.

Another example: My mom makes something I don't like for dinner. Do I respond with
"Thanks for making dinner, Mom, but I'm not hungry." or a simple "it wasn't my favorite. I wouldn't ask you to make it again"
"Mom, that was awful. It makes me want to gag. NEVER make it again when I'm home."
Again, both might be the truth but only one is honesty with charity.

Bottom-line: sometimes, it's not necessary to give all the details. As long as you're being truthful it can be more charitable to leave out some of the nitty-gritty. Despite what people might think from reading this blog, I do not express every thought that comes through my head. There are many many things I could say about people, places, things, etc. which would be less than charitable. Do I always succeed in not saying these things? No. But I do my best. And the idea of people calling me dishonest because I try to avoid saying hurtful things is both offensive and immature.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

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