More on speaking the truth, questions

This discussion is provoked by and expands a little on what Nathaniel wrote in the last post. He related how we often respond, “Fine,” in answer to “How are you doing?” and how we tend in this way to hide behind a mask and fail to cultivate the sort of beneficial relationship and care for others that is healthy and biblical. So how do we be honest?

I just wrote a paper on Christians and deception, so I’ve thought this over a bit recently. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “Fine,” in response to “How’re you doing?” especially when asked by, say, the grocery store clerk. Most people don’t expect any more than a one-word courtesy answer. But as of late, when any of my friends or acquaintances asks me how I’m doing, I tend to respond more thoughtfully. It may be “I’m pretty tired and unproductive. Hopefully today will be better. How are you?” Or, depending on the person and their interest in encouraging and exhorting me, I might share my struggles and ask for prayer.

There are two basic truths here: speak appropriately to the situation, and be concerned for the welfare of others. In my paper, I came to the conclusion that (shocker) it comes down to heart motives. For example, some falsehoods actually convey a more important truth, as God’s deception of his enemies communicates His justice and truth. When you say that you’d love to have someone over for dinner even though you inwardly chafe at the inconvenience, it communicates that you value their company and wish to bless them; this is as it should be, and there is no need to let them know about your moment of ungodly selfishness. You know better, deal with it, and prepare dinner in the right spirit.

That was rather long-winded, but I’m tired. What I’m trying to say is that the radical honesty approach has its good applications, and its flaws as well. Sometimes we most certainly should not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

As to the second point, let us return to the grocery store example. Or coffee shop. As I mentioned, I have been being more thoughtful in my communications with others, say, when in line for coffee at Bucer’s. (Bucer’s is a Moscow coffee shop, where I get lots of schoolwork done. Really, I do.) But sometimes they weren’t really looking for more than “I’m good,” and sometimes it’s just inconsiderate to dump your stress on someone else. The point is, in your openness and communication, be sure you are seeking to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Which brings us to what Nat said about finding out what’s happening with others. It can be difficult when they think you’re asking a trite question, but I’ve witnessed many examples of friends showing a sincere interest in the other’s welfare, and it really isn’t that hard to do. When you respond honestly and show an interest in others in your daily conversations, others notice and it benefits everyone. Encourage and sharpen one another (Prov. 27:17).

To wrap up: parents, messy lives, and God. As painful as it can be, I believe it is always best to talk to your parents and work things out. It makes your relationship stronger and enables growth as Christians. Parents are the first sphere of authority set in place by God, and they love you. And life is short. Don’t let relationships fall apart and erode. Don’t let the distance grow. Lives are messy, both ours and others’. Paul wrote as the “chief of sinners” to some new-Testament Christians with terribly messy lives, but God draws straight with crooked lines. Within covenant and communion, we have already overcome the wicked one. Sanctification is a process, but the battle is, in one sense, over.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” — 1 Peter 5:6-11

Hope you liked it. If so, maybe share it, comment, or link. Many thanks.

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