Judith Victoria Hensley
The responsibility of being truthful
Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I have a single friend in the world. “Why?” you may ask. I tell the truth when someone asks me for my opinion.
It isn’t always easy to tell someone the truth when you know it’s not what they want to hear. But if someone asks for your truthful opinion, isn’t a responsibility to tell them the truth?
There are times that I have actually asked people if they are sure they really want me to give them a truthful opinion. If they say yes, I try to take a moment and think about it instead of just blurting out. I try to say whatever I say on these occasions framed with love.
Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” What in the world does that mean? A friend will be honest with you, even if it hurts your feelings. A person who only tells you what you want to hear or encourages you to follow pursuits that are unhealthy or just plain wrong is one who will stroke your ego for their own reasons, but they are not a true friend to you.
A true friend will not lie to you, even if they would rather remain silent, when you ask for them for honesty. That’s certainly what I want and expect from my friends if I go to them for advice. In our closest circle of friends and family, we need to hold each other accountable. If I can’t hold a mirror up for myself and look honestly at my reflection, I hope and pray that I have at least one friend who will love me enough to do it for me.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 makes a strong point. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
One of my favorite verses on the subject is this: “As iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend.” — Proverbs 27:17
Iron is a hard metal. Other metals have little effect on it. It takes iron to sharpen iron and make it better. A true friend is one who makes you a better person when you come in contact with each other, and vice versa. Wouldn’t it be great if every friend we have in this life would help us become a better person?
I’m sure I’ve had people get mad at me for responding to something they asked by giving a straight answer. I may have lost people from my life for that reason. But I can’t do any less. I’m not as concerned with being “popular” as I am with being truthful and true to myself.
Telling the truth doesn’t mean that you should ever try to be cruel or deliberately hurtful. If someone asks how they look in an outfit that makes them look fifty pounds heavier and twenty years older, the truth could be difficult to tell. But we can always look for a kind way to tell the truth and preserve our own integrity and the other person’s feelings at the same time. In such a case, maybe the color of the outfit is your favorite color, or makes their eyes sparkle. Maybe their shoes, hair, or make-up looks great.
If an unattractive man asks his friend if he thinks a gorgeous super model would ever go out with him, the friend may be thinking, “Not in this life time!” but a kinder response might be, “What man has ever figured out what a woman might or might not do?”
Have you ever known someone who knew they were doing bad things in their life and who went from one person to the other seeking approval? I have known a few people like that. They will ask one person for advice, for an opinion, but when they don’t like their answer they move on to ask someone else. They keep asking until they find one or more people who smiles and agrees with whatever they say.
I am human and I’m sure there are times I’ve said more than what the person wanted to hear. I’m sure there are times I’ve said more than I should have. Trying to talk to someone who has already made up their mind to do the wrong things is like talking to a brick wall. You’re wasting your breath and they will only resent you for speaking the truth, even though they asked you for it.
The only time I ever regret telling the truth is if I have not taken time to check my heart, make sure I have the right attitude, and make sure I am speaking from a place of love for that person. I have, at time responded in anger to the revelation of some wretched situation an individual has become entrapped in. My anger is never going to help the person on the other end. We may actually let ourselves get mad at something a person is telling us which is not the whole truth. They may only be telling their side of it. And in anger, we almost always say more than we should. Like leaves blown away on the wind, angry words spoken cannot be gathered back again.
There is always the danger of saying something truthful, but the person you said it to may not repeat it exactly like you said it. They may deliberately take it totally out of context and tell it in a way that makes you look as bad as possible. When they do this, they are either trying to get sympathy from their listeners, or trying to take the focus off of their own wrongdoing and place it on you.
We live in an age when people don’t want to be confronted about anything — not drugs, infidelity, alcoholism, stealing or any other manner of self-destructive behaviors. All they want is a smile and seal of approval on their life, regardless of how off track it might be.
If you are asked for your opinion on a topic and it is not the currently popular view, you may be labeled as “a hater,” “intolerant,” “hypocrite,” “self-righteous” or even a “bigot.”
If a person doesn’t want to hear anything but the echoes of their own opinion, I recommend that they stand in the mirror, smile at their image, and tell themselves anything they want. They could always record their self on a tape recorder and play it back for their own amusement.
I am entitled to my own opinions, to express truth as I perceive it to be. And so are you. I am not entitled to try to force my opinion on you or anyone else, or to persecute anyone if their opinion is absolutely different than my own. Your right to free speech is worthless if you try to take that right away from me.
My moral compass is based on my religious and cultural upbringing and my own study of the Bible as a free woman seeking God’s instruction and wisdom, entitled to and responsible for discovering truth. If you ask me for my opinion, or if you ask me to tell you the truth about something, these are the things that will form my response. Please, don’t ask me anything at all, about any subject at all, unless you are willing to acknowledge my right to tell the truth to the best of my ability. And I will gladly do the same for you.