Truth & feelings

In a culture where feelings are king, we have little tolerance for truth.

I’ve watched someone be shunned for the past two years by those my friend spoke a simple but powerful truth to. It was an unwanted truth, but it would have been a liberating truth if it had been accepted. Instead, because it stepped on toes and hurt feelings, it was rejected and my friend along with it.

The truth is always liberating, even if it is uncomfortable and possibly painful to listen to.

The truth undermines our self-pity, our self-kingship. The truth always brings us back to earth, deflating our egos and reminding us that God is God and we are not. And that is never a pleasant feeling.

But even if it is momentarily unpleasant, do we really want to continue living with lies instead of the truth?

If someone were to kindly suggest that I curb my appetite and attend to my physical health through more regular exercise, I would be momentarily embarrassed. But it’s a truth I know I need to face, since the increasing tightness of my pants has been daily telling me this truth already. And hopefully, because of the bravery of the one who has loved me enough to say the awkward but needed truth, I would take that truth to heart and take the action required by it.

But what do we generally do? We reject such truths that touch soft places in our egos with “How rude!” and “How dare they speak to me like that!” and “They don’t know what I’ve been through!” and “Who are they to speak, when they’ve got things of their own to deal with?”

When Jesus said we need to mind to the plank in our own eyes before attending to the sawdust in our brother’s eye, he didn’t mean to ignore the sawdust completely. Rather, he called us to a deeper encounter with the truth ourselves.

It’s always possible that the one who really needs to hear the truth is me. When I see the ill-health a lie is causing you, I ought to spend some time in the mirror considering the ill-health lies are causing me. It’s possible that I’m merely projecting my ill-health on you. But once I’ve dealt with the plank in my own eye, I ought to reconsider the sawdust in yours. Perhaps what I took for something in your own eye was the thing in mine and dealing with my own issue is the end of the matter. But it’s also possible that after dealing with the truth personally, I am now able to kindly and gently bring the truth to bear on you so that we both are healed.

Years ago, a man who had been more than 200 pounds overweight told me about what happened when he had a surgery and a lifestyle change that rid him of that extra weight. He said that he was so joyfully free because he’d faced the truth and been liberated by it that he couldn’t help sharing the good news of that life-altering truth with others he saw who needed it as well.

He had no smugness or self-righteousness or contempt for others. Rather, he had an irrepressible joy arising from personal transformation. This is the easiest way to share uncomfortable truths.

But it’s not the only way. There are times when truth is urgent and we cannot wait to speak it. Yes, we must check ourselves and our motives, but we shouldn’t silence the truth even so.

Speaking the truth in love means, well, speaking the truth. It doesn’t mean avoiding the truth in order to seem nice. It doesn’t mean beating people over the head with truth. It means doing the most loving thing for someone, even if it temporarily hurts their feelings, because the truth will liberate them for much longer than the sting their feelings will have to endure.

The truth is liberating and lasting. May we not love our feelings so much that we choose lies over the truth.

This is where I want to live: At the intersection of truth and love.

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