It Matters *How* You Tell the Truth
How to do it the right way.
The phrase “your truth” or “my truth” is a popular phrase right now. However, the essence of those phrases seems quite timeless. When I was in college in the ’70s, I had hair that resembled the shape of a motorcycle helmet and too many outfits that included fringe. That era was about finding truth and being real, man.
I had become a Christian at age 16 while attending military school, so now that I was going to a Christian college, the world around me had shifted on several levels.
In an effort to be “real” in my newfound faith and Christian friendships, I opened up to another student about some personal issues. Later he wrote me a note and told me to read Psalm 32:8–10.
So I did.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
All I could focus on was verse nine and this “friend” telling me I was a stupid mule. Offended and not shy about confrontations, I decided he needed to know how I felt, immediately.
“Oh, no, that’s not what I meant at all. I’m sorry, brother. I was trying to encourage you that the Lord would instruct and counsel you with His eye upon you.”
(Yes, we called each other “brother.” It was the ’70s, remember?)
I felt humiliated, embarrassed and, frankly, like a big mule. Because my feelings had been strong about this, I felt I was right to confront him and challenge him as he had “challenged” me, but it turned out I totally misread his intent.
“My truth” felt true to me, but I was in fact wrong.
Speaking the truth is important, but how we speak that truth or clarify what we perceive to be true can make all the difference in sweetening or souring a relationship or your reputation.
Have you soured a relationship after speaking “your truth”? Ruined a professional relationship? Can you think of people who you’ve distanced yourself from because they acted like me?
My friend’s grace toward my ridiculous response softened me, and the embarrassing experience made me want to be a better communicator and help others.
In my new book Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache I address four things that I now use as a checklist to help others, and myself, be a little more “groovy” as we speak our truth.
For example, to expand on the idea of speaking truth, one of the four checklist items I discuss in the book, a relativist says, “I’m unmoved by my contradictions. Truth is what I say it is at the moment.”
Is truth relative? Not when it comes to the construction of a three-story home. Who hires a construction firm that adheres to the idea that the mathematical configurations about structural stress don’t matter since truth is relative?
On college campuses some professors wax eloquent about truth always being relative. A student told me that he raised his hand in a class when one professor lectured that there were no absolute truths. He asked, “Prof, are you saying that rape is not always wrong?” That political hot potato triggered a class discussion that ended with the class—filled with women—believing in absolute truth.
Some things are inherently evil, wrong, or false. It is always wrong to rape someone, and it is always wrong to say someone raped you when they in fact did not.
What is interesting is that most relativists wax eloquent about their relativism but in their daily lives they hold firmly to certain beliefs in very dogmatic ways and end up contradicting their claim that there are no absolutes. They say one thing over here but live another way over there. Of course, they leave people confused about what they really believe because of the glaring contradictions.
Stephen Hicks illustrates this: “On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is. On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad. Values are subjective―but sexism and racism are really evil. Technology is bad and destructive―and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others. Tolerance is good and dominance is bad―but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.”
When we contradict the very principles we espouse, the people who know us will say, “You can’t have it both ways. Be clear. What do you really believe? Are you saying this out of selfish convenience or heartfelt conviction? Bald-headed men don’t sell hair-restoration oil.”
This article is an excerpt from Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache. Used with permission.