In Kingdom Character: Growing in Honesty Part 1, we discussed the importance of living a life of authenticity – being true to who we really are and rejecting deception or falsehood. We also talked about how important it is, to be honest with others, even when it may not be what they want to hear. In Part 2 of Growing in Honesty, I’d like to discuss some practical ways, to be honest in tactful, kind, loving ways.
This is almost a no-brainer. The better you know someone, the more open they will be to your speaking truth to them. Why? Because they trust you. You need to gain trust and access to that person’s heart where you’re a consistent force in their life, where you earn the ability to let them know that you see something in their life. When there’s relationship, there’s more openness to feedback because they know that you care about them first and foremost.
Even if you are ready to share something honestly with someone, it doesn’t mean they are ready to hear it. Timing really does matter. For example, if you need to be honest with someone at work, and they are having the worst day ever, it’s probably not the best time to share.
In order to find out if the person is open and ready to hear some honest feedback, you could preface your statement with “I love you. My heart is for you and not against you. I feel like the Lord has something that I need to share with you, and it may be a difficult thing, are you open and ready to hear it?”
If they say “no,” that’s OK! At least they are being honest with you about not being ready to hear it! Respect their need to speak at a later time. Tell them that it’s no problem and find out when would be a better time to speak with them.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Most of us are familiar with the concept of speaking truth with love. But how many of us actually do it or understand how to do it?
Ephesians 4:15 says, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Speaking the truth in love is something that takes maturity. We must set aside our own agendas and opinions and speak truth lovingly to someone for their benefit and growth.
When we need to speak to someone about something that may be a little sticky, this is the goal: Tell the truth in love. We don’t change the truth. Truth is truth. But we must speak lovingly when we’re honest. We must be careful the words we choose so that we are building the other person up and not tearing them down. And this brings us to the next topic: Communication.
One really effective way to be honest with people is an exercise I call the Feedback Loop. The main approach is to use I-statements. This method is a less threatening way to approach someone when you need to discuss something that’s a little sticky or complicated.
I-statements are all about owning your own feelings and taking responsibility for them rather than blaming the other person for what’s going on. Here is the basic format:
When ____________. (Describe the event).
I think ________. (Describe your opinion, perspective or thought).
I feel ________. (Describe your emotion or emotions specifically).
I would need or like _____________ (Describe your request).
I intend to ___________ (Describe your part of the solution).
Here’s a simple example of using I-statements when I talk with my kids about something that’s bothering me (notice the I-statements in bold):
“When you leave your clothes in the middle of the floor, I think you’re being lazy, and you’re not taking care of your clothes. I feel sad and annoyed. I would like for you to put all your dirty clothes in the hamper. And I intend to only wash the laundry that’s in the hamper. So if you don’t have clean socks, that’s not my fault. OK?”
It’s important to then ask, “What did you hear me say?” This is called reflective listening. Just because you said it doesn’t mean that they heard you correctly. When you ask this question, it gives you a chance to make sure that you were properly understood. If the listener says they heard you say something that you didn’t, in fact, say, then you can clarify that with them.
Using I-statements is an effective way to communicate not only with your family members but also with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and anyone else that you need, to be honest within a tactful way.
Final Thoughts on Honesty
We have to be careful about personal perceptions and motives. For example, we might be trying to be honest with someone about OUR perception. Our perception might be OUR truth, but it may not be THEIR truth, and it may not even be THE truth!
And we need to ask ourselves:
First, do I have access to their heart or not?
What’s the purpose of my even sharing this?
Will good come out of sharing this with them?
What good can come from it?
Hopefully, there’s a reason for your honest communication and it’s not just to make the person feel bad or to dump on them. It’s all about helping them grow! It’s about caring about the person enough to challenge them to come up higher and to reach their potential in Christ and doing it in a loving way.
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