The time will come when we must confront someone(s) with truth to protect them from themselves and/or protect others from them.
But truth must always involve love. And love must always involve truth. If you have truth but not love, 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 incompetence, or self-destructive and others-destructive behavior. You mistake fear for love.
The balance is speaking the truth in love. But what’s the best way to do so?
You must have a mix of these 3 ingredients:
Are you burdened or just frustrated? Do you care for them? Or do you care more about their potential negative (hostile, even) reaction? Beware of the motive of wanting to come down on someone. Get past the fear that they might come down on you. How? Having the right motive that you are for their good, not just their correction. That you are for their joy (and by default, yours too) regardless of their reaction.
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. Said the wise man, “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. Be sensitive, listen to your gut, and wait for the right time.
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 that lesson well. Tone cannot be communicated properly in those forms. It’s a one way conversation. 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 grievance or concern. 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 the person might carry toward you and your words (Dr.Tim Keller). Perhaps they’ll even wield a verbal bat toward you!
Don’t waver in your truth… and love. Don’t lose courage. Wield the truth like a bone-cracking feather in loving motive, loving timing, loving tone.
Helpful? Do you agree? What else would you add?