At the end of last month’s Part II blog (Click here for Part I), we ended with this question: “How do we speak the truth to others [at all times], especially when it is a hard truth to swallow, but still talk to them in a way that encourages them?”
The last part of the principle essentially sums up both components in a simple way:
“Speak the truth in love.”
We already concluded that “speaking truth” doesn’t mean we share all. And “speaking with edification” doesn’t mean feelings won’t get hurt sometimes. However, we only remain faithful to the principle when we share the truth while being compassionate in our interaction with other individuals.
If we take the first principle (Part I) to heart and run with it, it can be easy to cause others to be hurt or lead them to anger. If we then justify our words by saying, “I’m only being honest,” then we are, in fact, in the wrong.
If we take the second principle (Part II) to heart and run with it, refraining from speaking the truth because we only desire to edify others, we come across as disingenuous. When confronted in our dishonesty, if we make excuses or say, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings or cause an argument,” then we are, in fact, in the wrong.
The only way we can accomplish both at the same time is found in one keyword: love. I’m not talking romantic love. I’m talking about compassion. We have to dive into our hearts deep enough to find compassion for others.
When we have compassion for others, we do not refrain from speaking the truth because we know it is more beneficial to hear. It is, in fact, edifying. At the same time, we recognize that truth can hurt. Meaning, we know it is important to be encouraging also. The truth must be shared gently, not harshly.
This blog may seem redundant. You may have already connected the dots between the first principle and the second. But I wanted to deal with this a bit more because, in my experience, people usually engage from one of two sides: truth without compassion or compassion without truth. Rarely do I find individuals that balance them both equally at the same time.
In some instances, we may engage from one end of the spectrum and other instances from the other end. We often know the difference between the two because we practice each at times. But, if you are anything like me, you have a dominant tendency. Mine is speaking the truth without compassion.
To be more compassionate in my speech towards others, I first have to gain more clarity on what compassion really is: the person I am speaking with is VALUABLE, who they are and what they feel matters. Not that I don’t absolutely believe this, it’s just not always on the forefront of my mind.
As I remind myself of this, I can begin implementing more compassion in my speech. Usually, that means focusing on understanding the individual more deeply by asking questions and listening before speaking.
Suppose your dominant tendency is to provide compassion without truth. In that case, your first step is to gain more clarity on what truth really is: being honest with others actually shows MORE COMPASSION than refraining. Refraining from the truth removes someone’s opportunity to learn at that moment. That means you aren’t actually valuing them as an equal.
As you remind yourself of this, it will be easier to begin speaking more truth in your conversations. That means being willing to share your perspective or help broaden the views of others.
We should never fully let go of our natural style. Instead, our goal is only to make it to the middle, speaking truth with compassion.
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