The Harsh Truth*
As someone who values truth, I can at times get quite protective of it, and will defend the responsibility that comes with sharing it. This post reflects such a time.
Over the years, I have come to see that there is a very real difference between the ‘painful truth’ and the ‘harsh truth’, yet they are often confused as being the same.
A painful truth is a reality that is difficult but must be faced.
A harsh truth is a piece of information, relative or not, that is delivered in a harsh manner and can cause more damage than is necessary.
So many countless times the ‘truth’ is used as an excuse to criticise and berate.
Pointing out imperfections over and over, hoping to ‘help’ someone alter themselves according to our opinion, is not the same thing as telling someone a painful truth.
If we deliver an opinionated criticism and receive a bad reaction, it becomes common to believe that the one rejecting the statement couldn’t handle the ‘painful truth’, when often this is not accurate at all.
Defending ones right to be at peace and accepted in their own imperfection, is not the same thing as reacting badly simply because they don’t like the “truth”. Misjudgments, lies and false accusations have the power to cause pain and negative reactions, just as much as, if not more than, the truth does. This needs to be considered, rather than making assumptions, when assessing a response.
Before we begin sprouting opinions willy-nilly, or giving weight to ‘harsh truths’ from others, we need to seriously ask ourselves, how many unsavory traits are actually sins that need to be ironed out by another imperfect human?
(Prophetic note: This is in no way attributed to times when God uses His prophets to deliver His direct word to identify actual sin. That would be another post on ‘painful truth’ entirely.)
In our youth we often assume we know it all, we have it all going on. We move out from under our parents control and the power to make our own decisions can cloud our self-perception with pride. In this state it is easy to believe our reasons to be harshly critical of others.
Having an honest opinion doesn’t automatically make it a truth that needs to be shared, unless perhaps you are asked directly to express that opinion.
As we get older we have the opportunity to develop self-awareness. If we can accept the truth about ourselves, it opens a door for us to realise that we don’t know it all, and we don’t have it all going on. Reaching this level of humility helps us accept people and their faults. It eases our expectations and our desire to manipulate others. It also helps us learn to be gentle when delivering a potentially painful truth.
We are all uniquely made, our personalities, talents and weaknesses are a mixed bag of specific traits. Some of these traits rub others up the wrong way, some are over-powering and cause discomfort, some are appreciated and even admired, some are abhorred and reprehended. Any one trait can cause different reactions from different people, depending on their own mindset at the time. One particular trait may be what people love about you, and others may be put off by the very same thing. And we can’t please everyone, we will only cause ourselves more misery if we try.
The rights and wrongs of someone’s individuality is a grey area, and opinions should be taken with a pinch of salt and not become something to condemn oneself about. Honest self-assessment and the company of honest, yet tactful and accepting people can help this self-assessment to grow in a healthy way.
The truth has gained a reputation of being harsh because of those who deliver it in a harsh manner. Truth is a blessing when delivered properly, with timing, tact and taste (according to my fabulous blogger friend T.K. Coleman), and is more likely to be received properly when these things are correctly in place…Yes there are still times when a truth said with tact is still rejected, but that is a position of possible rejection those, who share the truth, must be willing to take. While expressing any truth at inappropriate times, with little or no tact or taste is extremely damaging and will usually cause defensive reactions and not be received well at all.
We must avoid using the ‘truth’ as an excuse to condemn and manipulate those around us. Decades of misuse of the word “truth”, has damaged it’s reputation and people’s desire to pursue it. Be responsible with the truth when you must deliver it, and avoid listening to those who tarnish it’s pure and freeing nature.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (NLT)