In our lives, we find ourselves often at crossroads where we clearly know how we should act and respond but want to choose an alternate path instead because it is more desirable to us.
In these times, we might seek counsel with others in the hopes of being confirmed not in what we know we should do but in the thing we would rather do instead. Though truth is important to hear, it is not always what we desire, and sometimes we foolishly choose to ignore it.
I had just such an experience when I was in college. I don’t remember exactly the issue at hand, but I do remember not wanting to do the right thing. I remember wanting to behave badly and have a bad attitude. And I sought out a particular friend who I thought might give me affirmation and sympathy along this vein of thought — except that never happened.
She didn’t tell me the thing I wanted to hear. Instead, she was honest and sincere with me as a true friend should be. And she spoke the truth to me, even though she knew it was not what I wanted to hear.
Being truthful people requires us to speak truth even when it’s not popular. Even when you know it might hurt someone’s feelings.
Granted, there are ways to be honest with people and be gentle at the same time. But sometimes, speaking honest words is downright painful, to both the recipient and the deliverer. However, in the end, we are better for hearing the truth rather than a lie.
In 2 Chronicles 18:1-34, we read the story of King Ahab, king of Israel. While seeking out guidance about going into battle, his prophets speak falsely, encouraging the king’s desire to ride into battle and defeat his enemies. Only one prophet, named Micaiah, is honest with Ahab. He is pressed by King Ahab to speak the truth and not go along with the other prophets.
Micaiah then tells how the King should not go into battle because he will lose the battle and die. Foolishly, King Ahab does not listen, proceeds into battle, and dies on the battlefield later the next day. Truth was being spoken to him, but he chose not to listen because it was not really what he wanted to hear.
How many people could have avoided a bad marriage or divorce if the loved ones in their lives had been willing to speak truth? How many people might have avoided bad financial decisions if someone had spoken truth to them? How many of us would be happier and healthier if we had listened when people did speak truth? Truth can be life-changing and life-giving, but we have to be willing to speak it, and hear it.
God, help us to be people of truth. Help us to be willing to be honest with one another and mature enough to handle the truth that is being spoken. Please help us also to be gentle with one another, as truth can sometimes be painful. Bring life to us through honesty and integrity. Amen.
Michelle Strall is pastor of Antioch United Methodist Church in Gainesville.