If you have ever heard me speak or read my writing before, I think what I am about to say is fairly self-evident. If you haven’t, I invite you to go back and read some of my other stuff, or come hear me as proof that I am indeed telling the truth. What I want to say is this; the truth is ALWAYS the best option. Like always.
I can already hear some of the objections. “Aaron, what if my wife asks me if the jeans make her look fat?” “What if my friend asks me if I like the guy she’s dating?” “How would I ever tell my parents it’s time to move out of the home we grew up in?” “There’s no way I would ever be able to tell my kid I don’t think they should play that sport, instrument, or go to that school.” These and other objections are received, noted, and have merit. In some cases quite a bit of merit. If you and I had a conversation around these or similar topics, you’d probably even hear me admit that I understand WHY you wouldn’t want to tell the truth, and that it would be easier for all parties involved if a little white lie made its way out of your mouth. The next words out of mine would be these; “tell them the truth.”
I have been alive for 37 years, going on 38. I have attended church for all of them, been in ministry for 20 of them, and been the Lead Pastor of my own church for almost 9. In all of those circumstances and situations I have had numerous opportunities to make the choice between telling someone what they want to hear, and telling them the truth. I have not always chosen correctly. I have sometimes chosen (more so in life than in ministry) the easy way or the protective way, instead of the honest way – and what I can tell you about EACH & EVERY time I have done it, is that I have lived to regret it. Deception brings death. Death to trust. Death to relationship. Death to integrity and character. Death to someone’s opinion of you, even if it shouldn’t matter. In any case, when we lie, something dies – and it’s been my observation that death is something to be avoided.
Let’s just for a second take a look at those hypothetical situations I listed above.
“Do the jeans make me look fat?” Go ahead answer no, and then wait with baited breath hoping her girlfriend or co-worker doesn’t make a comment about how unflattering they are. Because if they do, I’m sure that ends well for you.
“What if my friends asks me if I like the guy she’s dating?” I bet you can tolerate Mr. Annoying and self-absorbed for a while. Maybe even live with the idea the she’s going to marry him, but you’ll only have to hang out with her. But when you start to drift apart because you can’t handle him anymore, or when she comes to you because she figured out he’s not who she thought he was, something tells me you’re both going to wish you had taken the time to figure out how to say what you were thinking back then.
“I can’t tell my parents they need to move out” You’re right, you can’t make them. In fact you probably shouldn’t even TELL them they need to. But it’s probably worth having the conversation about why you think they should before one of them falls and winds up in the hospital, or you strain your own relationships and run yourself ragged trying to take care of your home and theirs.
“I can’t tell my kid they aren’t good enough to keep doing that thing they love…” You know, I get it. We ALL want our kids to live their best possible life. We want to see them happy and thriving. We want them to realize all their dreams and reach their fullest potential. I am ABSOLUTELY no different. I want my kids to get everything they want in life. But eventually, someone is going to tell them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, athletic or strong enough to do everything that they’ve ever wished or wanted. Even the kids of the rich and famous who live their lives on television don’t get EVERYTHING they want. Wouldn’t you feel better about your kids hearing from YOU, someone who loves and supports them, someone who they trust and are sure has their best interest at heart, someone who might be able to walk with them through the process of grieving a dream? I know I will when that day comes.
Now I know I have oversimplified these situations. I know people come with feelings and emotions and that makes conversations messy and harder. I fully understand that some of you might even think I am being too black and white, too logical, and I’m making too many generalizations. In real life, people get hurt, they allow their emotions to impact their reactions, and telling the truth can cause just as much pain and destruction as those little white lies we’re all so good at telling. You know what? You’re right. Sometimes the conversations will go poorly. Sometimes people will respond emotionally and things will be worse after, than they were before. Sometimes you’ll be honest in a way that feels TOO real, and people won’t be able to receive it. All of those things can and will happen when we’re honest – but that doesn’t change the fact that we should be.
Jesus said something profound about truth as He was speaking to a group of people that really wanted him to fail at his goal. What He said was this;
John 8:31–37 (ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Jews there listening don’t even realize, they aren’t as free as they think they are. Never mind the fact that they’re currently under Roman occupation and not in charge of their own government, they’re just fine telling Jesus that they’re free because they’re sons and daughters of the God of Abraham. They belong to God, and no one else. They think they’re free. How cute.
Jesus, as He is prone to do, throws down the gauntlet. You’re sinners, and your sin is what is holding you captive. It’s keeping you from having the life I have for you. It’s got you tied down and under its control. The only way out – is to know the truth – and the truth will set you free.
The truth, as He tells it, isn’t necessarily easy to hear, or pretty either. We are all failures when it comes to living up to God’s standard, and we deserve an ugly and eternal punishment. There’s nothing we can do to get ourselves out of it, and so we’re powerlessly awaiting our destiny. That’s the ugly part. But it’s also true, that God SO loves us all, that He gave us a way out, through a relationship with His Son, who pays our debt, and offers us His Holy Spirit to help guide us on a path of truth through this life. All we have to do is submit ourselves to Him.
That wasn’t an especially popular or easy to follow message back then; and it’s only gotten less so as time has passed – but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Freedom then, comes in knowing that even when things are at their worst, the TRUTH is that God loves us. Freedom comes in knowing that through radical submission, we gain the ability to do things we otherwise could never have dreamt of. Freedom comes in knowing, we never have to remember another fake story, who we told which lie to, or worry about being inadequate in any way. When we tell the truth, we find freedom.
The truth is, the truth can be hard. Hard to hear, hard to receive, and hard to speak. Many of the most difficult conversations I have ever had to have, were filled with the truths that people needed to hear. I have made a living trying to speak the truth, no matter the situation, and at any cost. I haven’t always been the best at it, but I can tell you this – I have NEVER regretted trying. Even when I haven’t felt satisfied with the way things panned out, I have felt free in knowing I was honest over everything else.
I guess what I want to leave you with is this; the saying is right – honesty really is the best policy. So tell the truth – even when it’s hard, even when it hurts – you might be surprised how well it works out for you. I know I have been. Trust me, you know I’d never lie to you.