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Speaking the Truth in Love

Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor

CBN.comOf the hundreds and perhaps even thousands of thoughts we have every day, many of them are about issues we’d like to talk about, but are afraid.

Who of us hasn’t struggled with a boss, wondering how on Earth to tell him we feel unappreciated? Or perhaps we have a friend we care about, and do special things for, but don’t feel the special acts are reciprocated. Why can’t they call us? Why am I the one who has to give so much?

And so we stew, and brew, and cogitate until we’re sick to our stomach. We rehearse our resentments, perhaps even trying to talk ourselves out of being upset. But, we fail to take the most obvious action: speak the truth in love.

Perhaps your problem is just the opposite. Instead of shutting up, sitting piously on a pile of resentment, you blow up. Finding the balance between shutting up and blowing up has been hard for you—you’re like a tea kettle that simmers until finally blowing its top.

Both extremes, of course, are unhealthy. Stuffing our feelings only leads to resentment, while blurting out our thoughts and feelings almost always leads to broken relationships and guilt. Seeking that precarious balance is difficult for nearly everyone, including this response to our Message Board.

My grandmother is extremely hard to deal with. She is always telling me I dress stupid and my hair is ugly unless it's blonde. She is always bragging about my cousin, who is a girly cheerleader. She is always nagging on what I wear and the sports I play. She just can’t accept me for me. I am supposed to live up to my younger cousin's expectations. I take as much as I can until I sometimes blurt out things. My family thinks I am disrespectful, but that's because they are not hassled about everything they do by her. How do I deal with her to convince my family I am not rude and disrespectful and to keep sane around this woman?

While your grandmother is clearly out of line, making critical, hurtful comments about issues that are none of her business, you need to practice assertiveness. She cannot read your mind, and may not know how much her comments hurt you.

Addressing the issue of unity in the church, the Apostle Paul says emotional and spiritual maturity means “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him, who is the Head, that is Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 15)

What does it mean to “speak the truth in love?” I think there are several important steps for each of us to practice, especially if we want to live in healthy families and churches.

First, we must be aware of what we’re feeling, and how someone’s comments impact us. It generally doesn’t work to try to deny our pain. If our feelings are hurt, admit it. Being aware of our reactions may help us learn more about ourselves, and perhaps old wounds in our lives.

Second, we may find that it isn’t really others’ comments that hurt, so much as our old wounds that need attention. Many of us are in need of healing, and walk around feeling bruised because old wounds have been bumped. As we learn about our wounds, we can then choose alternative methods of healing. Simply attending to our old wounds may be enough. We may seek prayer for these wounds, or enter counseling.

Third, as a general rule—make the unspoken spoken. If you’re brewing on something, deliberating on it and gossiping to others, it’s a big enough issue to bring to the attention of the other person. Deal directly with the other person rather than involving a lot of other people.

Finally, get the matter settled. speak the truth in love. In other words, when the issue really does involve someone else, something needs to be said. In this particular case, it appears that talking to your grandmother about her hurtful comments will not only help you, but will hold her accountable for her actions as well.

We never need to blurt out what’s bothering us, but we must prayerfully consider how we might bring a troubling issue to the surface so that healing can occur. Matthew 18 offers additional guidelines for dealing with church conflict, but the principles apply to families as well. We do no one any good by burying a problem, or by exploding. Own your feelings, never pointing blame. Treat others with the respect they deserve, assuming they are strong enough to hear your thoughts and feelings, in a respectful and reconciling manner.                   

Dr. David HawkinsAbout the author: He is known as The Relationship Doctor. With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, Ph.D., has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You and When Trying to Change Him Is Hurting You, have more than 300,000 copies in print.

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