The time will come when we must confront loved ones with truth to protect them from themselves and/or protect others from them.
Love always involves truth. Truth should always involve love. If you have truth, but not love, you will sound like a gong (1 Cor. 13:1). They will hear nothing you say, only the way you say it. If you have love, but not truth, you most likely won’t confront at all. Or worse, you’ll unintentionally endorse or excuse their sin and their self-destructive and others-destructive behavior.
The balance is speaking the truth in love. But what’s the best way to do so? Consider these:
Are you grieving, burdened, and fearful for them? Or do you look down on their choices and behaviors as if you are above those choices and behaviors (and therefore above them)? Do you see yourself beyond being tempted by or behaving in ways that they are? Have you taken the log out of your own eye (Matt. 7:3-5)? By the way, never hide behind that question as a reason not to confront either. We must deal with our own logs (sins, secrets, failures, habits, shortcomings), nail them to the cross, and with the grace of God go to the one we are burdened for, grieving for, and kept awake at night for.
There is no easy answer about the timing of confronting someone with truth in love. It comes down to specific situations and the specifics of those situations. Wisdom is a must. Proverbs 15:23– “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” A word in season…. The timing of your words is crucial when confronting someone. The right word at the wrong time can be damaging, hurtful, even relationship ending. Keep praying for yourself and them until the time is right.
Tone is everything. Everything! You can have the right motive, the right timing, but if your tone is off, you’ve lost your opportunity—perhaps for good. That’s why you never confront in a text, email, Facebook message, or letter. I’ve learned this the hard way. Tone cannot be communicated properly in those forms. It’s a one way conversation. Perhaps a hand-written letter as a last resort, but just that—a last resort. Truth and love is displayed when you take the time and energy to courageously risk your relationship with the person and meet with them face to face to share your heart. But tone—facial expression, body language, verbal language—matters.
For the hardest heart Solomon writes, “A soft tongue breaks the bone” (Proverbs 25:15). “Bone”… the hardened heart of defiance and resistance they carry toward you and your words (Tim Keller). Perhaps they even wield a verbal bat toward you! Don’t waver in your love and truth. Don’t lose courage. Wield the truth like a bone-cracking feather in loving motive, loving timing, loving tone.