“Keep it real. You are only as good as your word. Honesty is the best policy. The truth will set you free. Tell the truth and shame the devil.”
Let’s be honest: There is no shortage of sayings surrounding the topic of truth. And yet, in the spirit of truth, we have to admit, there’s a lot less honest living being practiced. As sobering, if not depressing as this confession is, there is truth to it. And if we believe truth sets us free, then perhaps a little honest conversation in the area of honesty will not only be good for the soul, but could actually liberate the soul.
So here goes: Why is honesty so hard to practice? In my own life, why am I tempted to rationalize dishonesty by calling it a little white lie? Why am I afraid to tell someone how I am truly feeling? Why am I drawn to the idea of faking it in the name of making it? And why do I find myself eager to tell the truth when it benefits me, but not so excited at the thought of doing so when my own interests aren’t being served? When did truth become so complicated?
For starters, the current cultural climate has dumbed down truth to a mere plaything for our own entertainment, complete with catchy hashtags and no makeup selfies. We air our private lives on social media and post our quick but not necessarily all that well-informed opinions on everything from politics to consumer products. And we do it all in the name of ‘keeping it real’. Mind you, we took 30 minutes in front of the mirror in order to capture that perfect no makeup selfie; and of course, we only added that hashtag because we noticed how much it’s trending right now.
And when the world isn’t attempting to dilute truth with a fair amount of foolishness disguised as fun, then it is actively selling it as a practical tool for personal gain. We are taught to be fully informed, but to only disclose what will advance our careers. Withhold truth entirely or until the most opportune time for closing in on that deal or securing that promotion. And the same holds true in the romance department. Make sure your dating profile is filled with interests that market you as a real catch. Go ahead and photoshop that profile pic to perfection because if you ever want to experience true love than you’ve got to practice a little false advertising along the way.
And I suppose the most dangerous dynamic of all is our own experiences in the way of truth. When someone lies to us or stabs us in the back or speaks openly what was shared in confidence, we may practice forgiveness; but it still makes it hard to trust in truth. Because someone was dishonest with us, we got hurt. And ironically, we can all too easily begin practicing our own subtle dishonesties as a means of protecting ourselves from being hurt again. It’s a vicious cycle built on pain and shame, one destined to continue to hurt both ourselves and those closest to us.
With all these factors at play, living honestly seems beyond humanity’s grasp; most certainly beyond mine. And then I look to Jesus. A few minutes dwelling on His character and what was once fog-filled is now crystal clear. Jesus was the Word made flesh; complete Truth dwelling in our midst. He never lied. He never manipulated situations for His own gain. He never deceived anyone into following Him. He never withheld truth from those seeking it. He never gossiped about or threw His disciples under the bus. And He was willing to tell the truth even when the cost was so great it would ultimately ensure His death on the cross.
He was completely truthful, and at the same time completely loving. Every word He spoke, however hard to hear, was motivated by and dripping in love. He was not rude in His honesty. He was not self-seeking in His honesty. He was not cruel in His honesty. He spoke truth in love because He is both Truth and Love.
This is the Jesus I follow. This is the same One you follow. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming more like Him. We don’t need to deceive in order to avoid being deceived. We don’t need buy into lies about needing to lie. We don’t need to harbor shame that we rename as secrets, and we don’t need to cheat on integrity in the name of personal advancement. Instead, we can embrace the way of truth and the way of love. We can do something so revolutionary in this world that it makes the Gospel so radically attractive to the world: we can practice truth in love.
I have been meditating quite a bit on this thought, mainly because more and more I want to live with Christ-like honesty. And as I have meditated and studied Scripture, I have stumbled upon these attributes of truth. It is by no means a complete list, for I am pretty sure I will never perfectly practice truth until I find myself perfectly perfected in Heaven. But I pray these truth-thoughts spark your own exploration of truth, and that more and more you find yourself embracing the way of truth grounded in love…
Truth-Thoughts for Truth-Seekers
- Keeping it real is not a license to be rude. Love is not rude, and truth spoken in love always finds a way to be kind.
- Don’t co-sign on what you don’t believe in, and don’t applaud what you don’t agree with. Sometimes, we as Christians are so afraid of coming across judgmental that we like and applaud the actions of others even if their actions seem unwise or unbiblical. Don’t criticize someone else, but also don’t mindlessly cheer on what doesn’t sit right with you.
- Living truthfully begins with praying honestly. God is the safest Person you could ever be honest with. Until you get real with God, you will never know how to be real with others.
- Tell the truth even when it costs you. Don’t take credit for someone else’s hard work. Don’t say only what you think will make the boss like you more. Don’t hang out with people just to benefit your own popularity or success. Don’t talk badly about someone else to make you look good. Don’t fudge numbers for a better return.
- Follow through with your commitments. If you say you will do something, don’t bail unless it’s an emergency. Be the kind of person people can count on.
- Refuse to allow secret sin to become sickening shame. If you are struggling with something, let someone trustworthy know. We all need each other to overcome sin. Healing comes through confession. What you keep secret will ultimately control you. Remember, its truth that sets you free.
- If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it behind their back. Gossip destroys reputations and relationships. Hold your tongue and be quick to leave conversations that don’t speak highly of people not in the room.
- Cling to the truth found in the Bible. There’s no better way to develop a love for truth than to develop a deep love for God’s Word. Read it daily, meditate on it regularly, pray it constantly. Allow the Word of God to form your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
- Be quick to own your mistakes. When you mess up, fess up. Say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. It’s okay. We all mess up. What makes you trustworthy is your humility, not your perfection.
- Resist the temptation to be someone you’re not. Don’t waste time trying to impress or act like you have it all figured out. Just be yourself. You are pretty awesome, just as you are. And when you are comfortable and confident in your own skin, it encourages others to do the same.