Words must be chosen carefully, along with the tone we use and our very presentation. Our words have the power to hurt and wound or heal others. Scripture is replete with admonitions to be extremely careful with our speech.
Solomon advises: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
That said, is it every appropriate to “say it like it is?” Is there a time when we can safely and respectfully speak bold truth? Is there a time when we should stand firm, speak surely and even sternly? I think so.
Scripture advises that we “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) This certainly suggests speaking truth is advisable and that our words should be motivated by love is clear.
We work tirelessly at The Marriage Recovery Centre to be gentle with speech and to speak out of a loving heart. We have diagrams and hand-outs in abundance explaining the best ways to say something to enhance the possibility that our mate can hear and effectively receive the message of their mate.
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As important as it is to be gentle with our speech, we must also be careful that we haven’t watered down our truth. Jesus certainly spoke hard truths at times. He admonished the Pharisees on numerous occasions. He said things in a way that were at times hard to hear.
I spoke with a woman this afternoon who expressed concerns about the message she wanted to convey to her husband:
“I am tired of tiptoeing around my husband when he says things that hurt me. He pushes everything back on me and won’t receive any criticism whatsoever. I’m afraid to speak truthfully to him. I want to tell him that he has hurt me and need to learn how to effectively share truth to him.”
“There is a time to speak the truth with gentleness,” I said, “and other times when it is appropriate to be firm. He may not receive it, but that is not your responsibility. You have a responsibility to speak truth respectfully.”