When Being Honest May Not Be Loving

There is a notion afoot that goes something like this, “I have to speak what’s on my mind or I wouldn’t be honest.” Of course it’s good to be honest. But often, someone makes that statement as an excuse to say something hurtful to others. We’ve probably all heard someone make a cruel remark under the guise of “being honest.”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be honest or true to ourselves. We could well argue that such a value is commendable. But when we use “honesty” as a pretense for saying whatever is on our mind without regard for others, we have a major problem. Suddenly, our so-called honesty is clashing with a lack of love or concern for others.

Being honest with ourselves does not necessarily require voicing that honesty. Suppose our little child or grandchild participates in a recital and really messes up. Inside, we might be thinking, “Wow, she forgot her lines, didn’t stand where she was supposed to, and was fidgeting with her dress.”

For the sake of “being honest with ourselves,” do we blurt out what’s on our mind and clobber this little girl with harsh criticism? Or should we hold our tongue and look for ways to encourage her and help her improve without destroying her self-image?

Or let’s say your spouse wanted to surprise you by making dinner. But things didn’t turn out so well: the vegetables were overcooked, the gravy was burnt, and the meat was tough. We might hurl all those criticisms at our spouse with the excuse, “Well I’m just being honest!”

Meanwhile, we’ve hurt our spouse. We completely overlooked the fact that they made an honest attempt to demonstrate their love for us. And we’ve trampled on their efforts grinding them into the mud, under the guise of “being honest.”

Consider the following:

  • “The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.” (Proverbs 12:23 NIV)
  • “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3 NIV)
  • “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.” (Proverbs 14:3 NIV)
  • “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 NIV)
  • “Just like a spark can destroy an entire forest, so your words can kindle an inferno in your life and the lives of others. Such caustic words are evil, corrupting your whole being.” (James 3:5-6 paraphrase)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not being honest when you withhold a cruel remark. Instead, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

©2017 Rob Fischer