In last week’s column about living honestly, I began writing a list of areas where God is calling me to be more truthful in my relationships.
Part of the reason for self-assessment is that sometimes we avoid speaking clearly and honestly out of fear of rejection, hurting someone’s feelings, or a sense of responsibility toward meeting needs and helping people. Truth-speaking is obviously always a good practice, but when we are confronting any area or issue that might be uncomfortable, it is especially important to be prayerful and to have built relationship.
My personal buzzwords in this season of my life right now are:
Is how I am handling this communicating care?
In my family life, areas of ministry, and both of my businesses (publishing and essential oils), “communicating care” is where it all breaks down for me. If I can’t do this well, I may as well pack it all up and go home. Even when my answer is “no,” “not now,” or “that is not a way I can help,” it is paramount that I convey kindness.
Close personal relationships are the polishing ground for the edges in our personalities and ways of interacting. Because we care more on that level, we are more invested. Good boundary-setting and clarity-with-kindness go a long way toward expectations being more realistic on both sides.
As a review, the first three ways of living honestly were:
- “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.”
The next three on my list are as follows:
- “What you just said to me sounds a bit mean and disrespectful. Maybe I misunderstood. Can you clarify if you didn’t mean it that way?”
- “I cannot continue to meet with you if the tone is going to be so hurtful and unkind. Maybe we need to take a break for a while?”
- Being consistent in my speech with everyone.
4) “What you just said to me sounds a bit mean and disrespectful. Maybe I misunderstood. Can you clarify if you didn’t mean it that way?”
Again, not everything said to us is going to be loving and kind, but if we care about sustaining honest relationships, we need to be able to gently redirect and confront at times: “Ouch, that hurt. Why did you feel you had to do that?”
I find the most caring relationships survive this and grow from it. The ones who can’t handle the self-reflection now and then don’t tend to be as safe for me personally.
The best part of this is that we are letting the other person know how something came across. Whether or not he or she agrees with us in that instance, we may be opening them up to healthier interactions in the future. Maybe that person will learn to use that filter—or maybe we will learn we are extra sensitive in that particular area.
Either way, it does not let the devil get a foothold in the relationship when we clear it up before the day is done, so to speak.
Ephesians 4:25-27, ESV
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
5) “I cannot continue to meet with you if the tone is going to be so hurtful and unkind. Maybe we need to take a break for a while?”
This goes back to what we can and cannot live with and in some ways is a follow-up to any bristly interactions that leave us feeling less-than. If someone is bringing us down into a place we ourselves are struggling with anger, hurt, and disappointment, regularly, he or she could be keeping us from serving our God-given purposes. That person may be a destructive distraction.
Proverbs 12:18, ESV
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Taking space can offer the chance for us to heal and for them to regroup and assess if being in relationship with us is worth them taming their tongues and using more self-control. It also gives us a chance to see what we value about the relationship versus time spent in misunderstanding. Maybe there is a wound somewhere on one side? Perhaps this can be the catalyst to airing and healing it. There are times it also helps me see where I am triggered by a well-meaning person who has no idea her interactions are being received that way by me.
Proverbs 29:11, ESV
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
6) Being consistent in my speech with everyone.
This can refer to being double-minded in giving one set of advice to one person and a complete flip in counsel toward another, but it also means we should not misrepresent a situation, for example correcting someone for a critical spirit but then exercising one ourselves with other relationships.
Proverbs 11:3, ESV
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
The NIV says “duplicity” in the place of “treacherous,” and Merriam-Webster defines duplicity as “contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action.”
So, what about you?
Which areas are you needing to work (from this week’s post and last week’s Part 1) on a more truthful approach?
Where are you setting people up well for expectations that you can meet?
Where are you being honest about ones that you cannot meet?
Are there people in your life who need to know the way they are speaking with you is not okay?
These may be great boundaries for us to learn, but here’s the flip side:
We have to be able to recognize when people are also drawing them for us. We need to be able to take a step back and self-assess. I find myself on both ends of the boundary spectrum at times. If I don’t stop and examine these questions from time to time, I am missing opportunities to grow in more Christ-like behavior of loving people.
It is good for us to go back over the list and revisit if anyone is offering us those same messages.
Are you brave enough? I find the strengthened relationships—both personal and professional—to be worth the temporary discomfort of reflection and occasional confrontation. And I learn so much as a person about perspectives outside my own.
*This blog was first a featured post at Your Tewksbury Today.