We all want to be told what we want to hear. For me, it’s all about food. I want to hear “It’s not a big deal if you eat that whole bag of Reese’s. You will burn 600 calories at boot camp tomorrow. You’re good.” I would love to be told “You are getting so skinny. You work really hard. You deserve to eat what you want.” The problem is that anyone who would actually say these things to me is not a good friend. Why? Because those things are not what I need to hear. Most of the time, what I really need is a swift kick in the rear end to get it in gear and stop eating junk. But, if you said that to me I would probably feel hurt and offended. I know it’s what I need to hear, I just don’t want you to say it out loud.
Scripture tells us to speak the truth in love. So, how do you go about giving a friend the swift kick in the rear they really need in love? I find this incredibly hard. It’s so easy to quickly condemn a friend for their behavior. It’s a challenge to be gracious, yet honest. My greatest fear in telling those I love what they need to hear is that I will offend them and lose their friendship or the relationship. If it’s a co-worker, I might have to endure uncomfortable dirty looks as I pass them in the hallway or the silent treatment as we run into each other in the lounge. My fear usually stops me from being truly honest. If they admit they don’t need that brownie, they don’t need to read romance novels, or they need to be nicer to their husband, I’m all about agreeing with them. Bringing it up myself? That’s a different story. I’m not the Holy Spirit, so how do I tell someone what they need to hear without offending and without forfeiting the relationship?
I’ve thought and prayed about how to speak the truth in love for a long time. I’ve searched the bible to find out how Jesus or anyone in the bible handles speaking the truth in a God honoring way. God keeps leading me to the woman at the well. She’s not someone a Jew or a man would normally even get near. He knows her story. She’s had many husbands/lovers or whatever you want to call them. She currently isn’t married to the man she’s with. When Jesus tells her about living water, she is interested. Clearly, she’s not satisfied with this life of one man after another. Does he condemn her? No. Does he refuse to spend time with her? No. He meets her where she is at and gets to know her. He does not gloss over her sin. He states the truth, but He also offers her something far better than her current lifestyle. He offers Himself, the Living Water. Her life is forever changed by this seemingly simple encounter.
When I read the story of the woman at the well as I first began to look at how to speak the truth in love, I thought, “Okay, that’s great and all, but Jesus you are the Living Water. I’m not. Things worked out great for you, but I’m not so sure someone is going to respond so well if it’s just me.” He said, “Offer them the Living Water. See how they respond.” Did this make me feel better? I guess it should have, but at first it didn’t. There goes fear again, crippling me every chance it gets. I was still worried about offending someone, coming across as judgmental, or losing a relationship. We might lose a relationship. It might be worth it if we speak the truth and ultimately point someone towards Him. My fear of offending or being judged comes from pride. If I’m going to speak the truth in love, I have to get rid of the pride, be willing to risk being offensive or losing a relationship, and go for it. The woman at the well could have left immediately. She could have been offended. Was it a risk worth taking? Yes.
Someday, what I want to hear is, “Welcome home, my good and faithful servant!”
Do you worry about being offensive?