Whenever I sit down to write a column, I ask God for guidance where to start. It’s not like He sits on my desk and audibly downloads ideas while I type. But I can tell you without a doubt if you want to know what He has me working on in my character and life, it is usually within these 1,200 words and very current.
So I sat down with a tiny piece of chocolate and my cappuccino and asked for a topic. The response in my heart and soul is usually along the lines of:
“Well, what am I teaching you right now?”
Me: “Well, patience, self-control, taming my tongue, speaking more gently, being slow to anger…..isn’t that the usual recipe of what needs work in me, Lord?”
“What is your main goal right now: the new level of a healthy spiritual life you are wanting me to bring you to?”
Me: “If I were to reflect on recent weeks, I would say: living honestly. Not people-pleasing. Only God-pleasing. Being true to who I am, what I offer, and what You tell me to do. Not allowing negativity to derail me from Your purposes.”
Living honestly. Hmmm. What does that look like?
Well, what first comes to mind is integrity. Keeping promises. Not promising what we can’t provide. Making good on our word.
Proverbs 10:9, ESV
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
1 Chronicles 29:17, ESV
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.
Not stealing or short-cutting to take from someone else. Any time we so much as take a box of pencils from the office closet or a pack of gauze from the medical bin at work, we are costing someone else something for our own gain. We don’t have to be shoplifting to be dishonest. We can cheat on taxes or fudge our payroll hours.
I find it also dishonest to live with priorities out of whack. Want to know what I mean by that? If we live hand-to-mouth, and that paycheck needs to pay for our transportation and food, yet we have the latest iPhone but have to regularly ask our friends to help pay bills, we may have some dishonest representation of finances going on.
And what about misspeaking when we recount a situation that happened, stretching or altering the truth? In court, false testimony can dismiss an important case! Our words matter!
Proverbs 14:5, ESV
A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.
But living honestly can also mean how we treat people. One of the areas God is really pruning and reshaping me is not being a pleaser. At the same time, He doesn’t want me being raw and critical either. But He wants me to be truthful about the following:
- “I can’t help in that way right now, but I can help in this way: ________________.”
- “I care a lot about you, and because I do, I have some thoughts on this pattern in your life that may be causing you some trouble.”
- “__________ is an area of my life I would like you to stop speaking to me about because you do not have the experience or authority to weigh in there. However, I would continue to enjoy your thoughts on _____________ area(s) of my life. I find it so helpful to hear from you about that.”
On one hand, these statements could all be considered healthy boundaries, safe guardrails of living in our everyday interactions. On the other hand, if we look at the list, how many of these are ones we regularly employ as needed?
Some personalities lend themselves to a more direct approach than others do, but either way, it is healthy to take inventory at times to see how “honest” we are being.
Let’s take each example and assess why the dishonesty can mislead and hurt people. We have a responsibility to be as straightforward as we can be.
1) “I can’t help in that way right now, but I can help in this way:
1 John 3:17-19, ESV
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him…
My pastor teaches our ministry team this by example and in the way he serves his sheep. I am passing on the wisdom, as it has served me so well over the years.
If we promise something regular or create any kind of dependency, that person may be looking to us to solve that problem semi-permanently. First, we will burn out. Second, they will not realize how independent and strong they really are. Third, we can’t keep that up, and they are in for a disappointment—and perhaps even crisis—if our support suddenly crumbles. We do not want to be false scaffolding. We want to be honest from the start about how we can help.
Proverbs 24:26, ESV
Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.
That could be as simple as:
- “While you are so sick, I am going to get your groceries for you.”
- “I can’t meet right now for long lunches because of my work schedule, but I’m happy to text-chat. Toss some thoughts out to me and I’ll answer when I can.”
- “I can’t call on a regular basis, but if it would be helpful to check in over the weekend, I can.”
- “I wish I was the solution to this ________ problem. That isn’t realistically in my capacity. “I don’t have the bandwidth for that right now” (as a friend of mine has taught me to say), but I am happy to do ______________.”
- Not saying “I’m sorry” when I am not or have no need to be—but saying it when I am.
We are certainly here to carry the load with each other and ease the burden.
Galatians 6:2, ESV
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
However, the only true and full Burden Carrier is our Christ, who died on the cross for us and rose again. We should consistently bring our requests to Him and direct the people in our spheres of influence to do the same.
2) “I care a lot about you, and because I do, I have some thoughts on this pattern in your life that may be causing you some trouble.”
Usually, I reserve this for really important matters and when I feel I have been put in a place where not saying something implies full agreement. I usually wait and pray. I then approach the person, assuming there is solid trust and relationship. I allow for the fact I am not God and only God can confirm or deny the truth of my perspective to the person.
Colossians 3:9, ESV
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…
Ephesians 4:25, ESV
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Living honestly in this way is not for tossing around our random opinions, platforms, rants, and reactions. It is thoughtful, prayerful guidance when solicited and welcomed. There has to be room for the other person(s) to receive or not receive what we share.
If it is a situation where an addiction or pattern of abuse toward us is not being resolved, we do not have to remain in that place, but we need to be clear that when they are truly ready to receive help and stop that behavior, we are there for them—but not while they are abusive.
3) “__________ is an area of my life I would like you to stop speaking to me about because you do not have the experience or authority to weigh in there. However, I would continue to enjoy your thoughts on _____________ area(s) of my life. I find it so helpful to hear from you about that.”
This one is a favorite of mine, but it is a tricky one. Ever have people tell you how to raise teenage kids when theirs are still toddlers? Or someone tell you how you should run your marriage when they are on Marriage #3 after several failed marriages, and this is still your first? I mostly like to use this one when unsolicited opinions and judgments come my way that aren’t productive or even well-received by me.
I need to pause here and say that we can’t discount the fact that sometimes God speaks His wisdom to us through people who may not walk our same walk. It’s true that there are times when God gives someone words to speak to us because He has given them eyes to see with His eyes into a situation. In this case, wisdom trumps the authority of experience because it is His wisdom. How do we sort this out and know if we should listen? We make sure it is not counter to the Bible, and we ask Him if we should receive it.
It isn’t that I don’t want advice from people. I absolutely do! But it needs to be coming from a place of authority and/or wisdom from God and not simply projecting their emotions or opinions onto me. It helps for them to have lived it and walked it well for me to receive it. Maybe they are not coming to me as a parent giving parenting advice, but they remember being the teenager in a household where they weren’t heard about _________, and they come in from another angle to offer counsel.
What if it’s a pattern, and the advice is repeatedly not helpful?
I find it productive to be honest about this when the topics of a relationship consistently steer toward telling me what to do in places where we don’t share joined space on the same Venn diagram, so to speak. We then have more room to focus on mutual places where we can help each other grow as people and friends.
Job 12:12, ESV
Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
Remember: The right people speaking wisdom into our lives are precious jewels!
Proverbs 20:15, ESV
There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Do you like this list so far? What would you add or subtract? In which areas do you feel challenged to live more honestly the week?
We will discuss three more areas of living honestly in the next column.
*This blog was first a featured post at Your Tewksbury Today.