An article on the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled, "Do People Really Want You to Be Honest?" led me to think about truth telling. What's your first reaction when you think about telling the truth? Do you tell the truth? Do you like it when others tell the truth?
My first thought was that most people really do not like it when you tell the truth. The people in the article tell a white lie supposedly to protect someone else. Eventually they tell the truth and in this story everyone feels better. Is that always the case? There were times when I told the truth and it was not appreciated! Maybe I could have been gentler although in the situations I thought about I remember being very careful... and kind! Regardless of great the delivery, people do not always want to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth is unpleasant. Is that a reason to accept dishonesty?
Why should we tell the truth?
In my full-blown people pleasing years, I often managed the truth so that it would be more palatable. I believed the lie that I did not like hurting other people's feelings. That may have been true at some level. However, underneath this magnanimous gesture played the real story, which is that I don't like how I feel when I think that my words or choices may hurt someone else's feelings. What I am really doing is avoiding hurting my own feelings. Warped, right?!
Telling the truth started to matter to me!
In recent years I've dealt with bunches of teenagers. My word to them always was that I cared far less about what they were up to and much more about their honesty. Many times I would choose to believe them only to find out I had been lied to. This only made me more insistent on truth telling. Why? Trust depends on honesty. And good relationships depend on trust. We cannot get anywhere or grow in our love for, or relationship with, each other if we are not honest. Is that what God had in mind?
Honesty for relationship
God thought telling the truth was important enough to put in the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment tells us,
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Exodus 20:16, NIV
It is listed among the five commandments that govern community relationships. No group of people can live in harmony and peace without trust and honesty. We tell the truth because we value relationships, trust and community. Even when the truth hurts.
How should we tell the truth? In love! That's what the Apostle Paul tells us to do in Ephesians 4:15. Or as The Message puts it, "God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything."