In Others’ Word: The Kindness of Truth

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I’ve come back to this quote time and time again. Read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s words so many times that I’ve lost count. And then I always close down the blog post without writing a single word.

I’m conflicted about this idea of truth being kind. And I’m well aware of the admonition to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

You have to understand that a while ago I risked a lot to speak the truth as kindly as I could.  With the hopes that relationships would be, for once, honest. I’d weighed my words, rewritten my words, for weeks. My hope? Truth. Honesty. Relationship.

Didn’t happen.

My efforts at speaking truth were a complete and utter fail. And I don’t think anyone involved would declare my actions a kindness — despite all my preparations and prayers and hopes and dreams.

So here I am on this side of the kindess of truth … leaving my words and my intentions and my longings in God’s hands. Trusting that he is working even when I see nothing happening.

Because God is kind.

God is truth.

And God is the end of all things.

I’ve done all I can … and he’s not done yet.

In Your Words: When has the truth been kind to you? What are your thoughts on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s words about truth being a kindness?

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. September 3, 2014, 12:27 am   /  Reply

    Truth isn’t kind, nor is it unkind. It simply is.

    But we have to be careful in defining truth, because there is far more subjectivity in it than we’re generally willing to accept. Additionally, truth is an iceberg; we say the part we see (or want to see), but it’s connected to that 90% below the surface…and that vast cold mass may well define what we see in ways we don’;t like.

    As a certain Captain Smith discovered in April of 1912.

    We can’t even regard ‘science’ as ‘truth’. Science is a model that explains what we see. It may be a good model, but it’s not an exact one. For example…the chair on which you’re sitting. Seems solid, right? Three states of matter…solid, liquid, and gas. remember?

    It’s not. The ‘truth’ of our experience has no connection to the model of matter…your chair is almost all empty space, and what makes it solid are the bonds of energy between subatomic particles.

    But are those particles solid? Probably not. It’s enough to make you fall out of your chair.

    As for dear Harriet (no irony intended – I think she’s great), it’s a nice line, but that’s about it, because when we tell people the truth, we tell them an edited version that almost invariably is constructed to our advantage. At best, we know what we see, and what we may infer, but we can never know the truth of another’s heart.

    There’s another point, and that is cultural context. I’m Asian, and circumlocution of avoid giving offense is a vital part of communication. You simply don’t tell someone the “unvarnished truth”.

    Well, you can, but that’s when you may discover what katana are for.

    • September 3, 2014, 7:15 am   /  Reply

      I see your point … up to a point, Andrew.
      There is truth that is undebatable. Call them absolutes, if you will.
      I understand that if three people are witnesses to a car accident they may see different aspects of an accident. But still, an accident did take place.
      And of course I agree we can never know the truth of another person’s heart. That is not something we can claim to know or try to decipher. Listen to, yes. Emphathize with, yes.
      But to understand our own heart, our own pain — and that damage has been done through the willful actions of others? That is a truth that we are called to wrestle with and, with the help of God, heal from. It’s not easy. And sometimes the ultimate healing disrupts other relationships. Not because it is what we want but because it is needed.
      Because the truth is, boundaries are healthy.

  2. September 3, 2014, 7:44 am   /  Reply

    That is awesome, thanks for sharing. No wonder you make her a high priority, and you’ve become that kind of friend to many.

    • September 3, 2014, 8:47 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, Dee.
      And your friendship is a blessng to me and to so many others.

  3. Susan
    September 3, 2014, 8:21 am   /  Reply

    I can completely see why this quote stops you. It did me, along with your words. Been there:) How do we eloquently speak truth especially when we know it may not be well received? And yet God calls us to. Which is why I’m with your ending. Our job is obedience, His is to work it all for good. Doesn’t make it easier at times:)

    • September 3, 2014, 8:51 am   /  Reply

      Susan:
      Obedience is sometimes the hardest of choices and the most difficult of actions. And living with the results can be a paradox: new found freedom and, at the same time, daily heartache.
      This is why you must know that your choice — be it to speak truth or to step back behind a boundary — is the right choice. The wise choice. The prayed over choice.

  4. September 3, 2014, 8:57 am   /  Reply

    I appreciate your transparency in this post. And your honesty in the fact that sometimes we do everything right—planning how we speak words of truth gently, kindly—and it still backfires in our faces. God doesn’t promise everything will work out the way we expect it to, but as you said, He asks for our obedience. The results are not up to us.

    I’ve had the kindness of truth spoken to me in ways that were a salve to a hurting heart. And, I am blessed to have people in my life who speak difficult truths to me with kindness. I don’t always want to hear their words, but when I consider them, I realize the truth I needed to hear and I grow from it. It’s kindness because people care enough about me to want the best for me—even if that means helping me see aspects about myself that are unhealthy or ungodly.

    • September 3, 2014, 1:09 pm   /  Reply

      Jeanne, I thnk you beautifully explained how truth can be a kindness — and how you can embrace it as such.

  5. September 3, 2014, 11:32 am   /  Reply

    Speaking truth will usually not win you friends, because no matter how you couch it, truth usually hurts. Both parties have to be actively seeking it. I try to always tell the truth, but maybe not all of it, for various reasons. What do you say if someone asks if a dress makes them look fat and it does? It depends on whether they’re asking before or after the purchase. 🙂 But seriously telling the truth is not easy, especially in the case you cited. I’ve been there and finally realized what I know as truth and what they know as truth are two different things. So I no longer waste my breath…reminds me of casting pearls…oops, probably not the best thing to say.

    • September 3, 2014, 1:10 pm   /  Reply

      Pat:
      I agree that there are times we are called to speak the truth and there are also times we are called to be silent. But maybe the tougher decision is discerning when is the season of silence and when is the season of speaking?

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