Which is more important—
Speaking the truth or speaking in love?
That’s an easy one, right? God is a God of truth (Isaiah 65:16, Titus 1:2, Proverbs 6:16-17). We should always speak the truth (well, except for Rahab, the Hebrew midwives, and maybe Corrie ten Boom during the Holocaust, as well as others who are trying to hide people from a murderer, right? Right?).
And… God is a God of love as well (Psalm 36:7, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16). So we should always speak in love.
So which is more important?
Those of us who are Task oriented in personality might have a tendency to say, “Well, if I have to choose between the two, we need to always speak the truth. That’s more important.” Those of us who are People oriented in personality might have a tendency to say, “Well, if I have to choose between the two, we need to speak in love.” Generally—not always—we respond or react according to our personality.
Interestingly enough, neither will say that we shouldn’t do the other part—the part that we are not emphasizing—but that our emphasis should be one or the other… truth, or love. Or truth. Or love. Or…
So is this a trick question? Yes. And no. Yes because I titled the post to get your thoughts and comments. And no, because there is a very important answer to the question. Sometimes we do act as though one or the other (truth or love) is most important. God’s desire is that we do both—speak the truth… in love (Ephesians 4:15). The problem is, we have varying definitions of what truth is and what love is, and our personality can reveal which end of the spectrum we have a tendency to push (more on that later). As well, in today’s culture, we speak that which we believe is true—without taking into consideration how we are treating the other person. As a result, I believe we are sinning [sic] if we speak the truth without love, or speak love without truth. Further, not speaking truth is not loving! And not speaking in love is not truthful to the witness of Christ—if we are professing Christians. We can get the WHAT right and still fail at the HOW. Actually, I believe we get the what right a good deal more than the how we should do it. So we can fall off both sides of the path.
Social media is rife with vitriol, frustration, stress, and anger, from generally well meaning Christians! And I’m not talking about from trolls or people who have some other agenda—though they cause their own havoc. Our churches are filled with people (including us) talking past each other on the way to making their point at all costs—specifically at the cost of a brother or sister—whom Christ died for…
I have read many posts (and comments/responses) recently on just one topic, one situation that happened in the Christian community, and candidly, I’m not sure you can separate many of the believers out from the non-believers. Because of my high Dominant personality, I was heavily tempted to lambast those Christians for the nasty way they were treating each other! That will teach them! What a hypocrite I was. Fortunately, I took some advice from the book I just finished writing (Who’s Killing Your Church?)—and dealt with the issue… in love. This is an area where I believe many of us need growth—some significant growth (including me). Many are lacking a good understanding of what God calls us to do to speak truth in love. Many lack self-control. Many don’t see God’s command to be kind, gentle, peaceable, loving, humble, etc. as a command but more of a suggestion—so we emphasize God’s wrath instead of His mercy (Matthew 9:13). Yet, we’re personally glad He emphasized His mercy with us… and His steadfast love.. and His…
What does the world see many times when they read our posts? A toxic group of people that are biting and devouring each other (Galatians 5:13-15)—not a group that is displaying the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Will they know we are Christians by the way we post and treat each other on social media—especially those with opposing views? Or will we be putting up a stumbling block for them to hear the gospel? Do we treat each other and those we may be debating, with honor and respect? Have we not become conformed to the world’s standards of confrontation instead of bringing every thought captive to Christ? No wonder Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I talked to many people on this recent issue I mentioned above and one of the themes was that after reading and hearing about how fellow believers were reacting toward one another, they were ashamed to be a Christian—not ashamed of Christ—ashamed of the community of believers.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (Italics mine). Can we say our posts meet that standard? Maybe we should memorize it and print it out and post it on our smart devices and computers.
With social media we have an incredible opportunity to shine and show that we are different by how we debate and argue. Why are we wasting that opportunity by being toxic? We challenge the motives of others, claiming we know their heart and we know why they say what they say and think—and many times accuse them falsely. God is the only one who knows the motives of each person—which means nobody else knows the motives of another person—unless they tell you. And that means you cannot claim to know why someone says what they say. You should not judge another’s motives. Actions, yes. Behaviors, yes. Ideas, yes. Motives? We don’t know others’ motives unless they share them with us. We don’t read minds—or hearts. We might guess and be right—but we might also guess and be wrong. Judging motives is for God alone. Only God knows the inner motives—“Therefore, stop judging prematurely, before the Lord comes, for He will bring to light what is now hidden in darkness and reveal the motives of our hearts. Then each person will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) Our motives and our heart is hidden from everyone else but God. In Matthew 7:2 God calls us to judge—rightly (it may be more accurate to say He calls us to not judge—wrongly.). Don’t be on the wrong side of judging.
“…then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind).” 1 Kings 8:39 and 2 Chronicles 6:30
That makes it pretty clear who does and doesn’t know the hearts of mankind.
Yes, I know we are all a piece of work—we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sanctification is a lifelong process. But this is so antithetical to who Christ is and what He came for, and what He asks of us! So many people hang on to John 3:16 (For God so loved the world…) and yet we hate our brother! (1 John 4:20)—and even if we don’t hate our brother, we can act like we do. As a result, others don’t see the kindness, gentleness, and love that the Lord calls us to. How is it that we rant and rave at each other in order to prove our point—and sacrifice the person whom Jesus loves? What is happening here? God left us with the two great commandments—to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, AND to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). How is it we try to get the first one right and forget to love our online neighbors? Or even face-to-face? And even if we only obeyed the first part of those two commands (love the Lord), not loving our neighbor is caught up in loving God, for he tells us many places to love one another.
Truth is paramount! Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am NOT saying we shouldn’t speak truth. May it never be. And, we have to stop sacrificing each other on the altar of only obeying half the scripture. Simply put, if we are not speaking in love, are we not disobeying the scripture that says to speak the truth in love? Because the TRUTH is that God calls us to speak it in love. Whatever happened to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44), do good to those who hate you, and be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:9-11). God doesn’t even want us to rejoice when our enemy fails (Proverbs 24:17–20). God’s not saying to be loving and not speak the truth, He is telling us to speak the truth! In love…
Even if we catch someone in sin, “we, who are spiritual should restore them in a spirit of gentleness, keeping watch over ourselves, lest we too be tempted…” (Galatians 6:1). Where is the spirit of gentleness? Where is the kindness? Where is the love? We have a zeal for our Father’s truth—and that is to be commended! But we take that truth and sinfully whack each other with it, trusting the Holy spirit to sort it out, thinking the whole time we have done our duty and been spiritual… Galatians 6:1 says “in gentleness.” The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and (wait for it) self-control. Is that what we are displaying? If not, are we not sinning just as much as if we are not truthful? For we are not obeying God’s call for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and display the Fruit of the Spirit.
There is no room for speaking truth without love (except maybe in a courtroom or other place where we are simply giving facts as necessary or the law requires). If you cannot speak without denigrating, do not speak. If you cannot argue without trying to bless, don’t argue. If your purpose is other than glorifying God and blessing/loving others, rethink your tactics. God is not hiding behind a bush—He doesn’t need us to defend His honor in a sinful manner (not that we shouldn’t defend it—He just doesn’t need us to). We are called, though, to give an account for the hope that is in us. Concentrate on that.
Is it possible that while we’re trying to teach someone the truth, God is showing us that we don’t love? Pray that God would give you eyes to see your conduct in the midst of it all.
God is the God of “both and”—He is constantly showing us things we need to change in the how even in the midst of us being right on the what. Job was the most righteous man around at the time—yet God still had a lesson for him to learn. Are we so misguided as to think it’s okay to tear down our brothers and sisters in the midst of the truth that we are bringing? How do we reconcile that with being at peace with all men as far as it is possible with us? (Romans 12:18). Or with do good to those who despitefully use you? or with…
Bring the truth! In love…
I can hear someone say, “Hey—I’m just a truth-bringer. How someone deals with it is their problem.” Well, you’re also called to be a love-bringer and if you don’t bring it with love, you’re just a clanging cymbal, a ringing gong, a lot of noise… “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Those things are not just for wedding sermons. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think we don’t have to speak in love.
Patient. Kind. Not rude. Not boastful. Not proud. Not self-seeking. Not easily angered. Keeps no account of wrongs. That’s a tall order for us to be sure. But it is the command set before us and if we are not thinking and acting with this in mind, we are missing God’s point.
I am NOT saying don’t bring the truth, may it never be. Always bring the truth. And I am not saying don’t be strong, candid, or honest! I AM saying bring it in love. In Christ’s definition of love—not our definition. Let us live according to Ephesians 4:29—“only bringing a word that is edifying for the need of the moment, so that it will give GRACE to those who hear.” Let that be a litmus test. If it doesn’t bring grace—even hard truths—consider not bringing it. Rewrite your post. Rethink your response. Maybe just be quiet. We have a tendency to totally ignore the Fruit of the Spirit when we argue—that’s because when we argue, it’s usually in the flesh. Not always—but much of the time we are angry, afraid, or hurt, and we are reacting in that anger rather than responding in love. We are there to win!—not to edify. That’s self-oriented, not others oriented.
From a personality perspective…
Those of us that are high Dominants have a tendency to have low self-awareness. No or low empathy for others. We have one purpose—preach the truth and let the chips fall where they may! We don’t have peripheral vision to see those around us—only what is in front of us, only our goal, only our mission, our purpose. We can be very “our” (or me) oriented. We can walk all over people in our self-righteousness and selfishness. When we are out of control, we can cause more damage in our response than the other person’s error! Not always, but much of the time. We can be really harsh, domineering, even cruel. We must win at all costs!! We need to mature into Christ’s desire for us to show love. Kindness is a theme in scripture—we need to learn to lean into kindness. After all, it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). As we chastise our brothers for the current sin they are embracing, we need to remember that Christ died for the millions of sins we committed (and still commit, and will commit tomorrow, and the next day, and…) and we are thankful that He is long-suffering and patient with us. Are we not called to be the same way with others? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5). We have a precedent.
There will be those that comment below that you should always speak the truth, never compromise, and that anyone who does is a heretic, evil, wicked, etc. Or something with that attitude. Again, two things—1), I am NOT saying to lie, I’m NOT saying to not speak the truth—don’t put words in my mouth. There can be a time to be silent without speaking at all. 2) that attitude above is a great example of what I am talking about—not speaking in love. We need to take out our own big log so we can deal with their little speck.
On the other side of the spectrum, the high Supportive type personality hates conflict and will do almost anything not to be involved in it. I might say one of the reasons is because the Dominants love conflict and they have a tendency to inflict pain as they go instead of loving and building up as they go. Who wants to be walked on by someone? To have your motives challenged? To be called names? So the Supportives have a tendency to stay out of the fray. But please don’t! You must get involved! You bring love, kindness, and gentleness to the situation—we desperately need you in the battle! You have a great deal of truth to teach us because you have so much empathy—I might even argue that you potentially bring the more important part of the truth that is being argued. And certainly you bring some kindness with your reserved personality. BTW, on behalf of all Dominants everywhere, I apologize for those of my personality type that have made your lives a living hell because of our unwillingness to temper our personality. Please forgive us. God is working on us. Pray for us.
Moving on, the high Inspiring types hate to offend and do most things to be liked—yes we are people pleasers. We bring humor to a situation to try to defuse it. We can be influential and if we are studied and understand the scriptures well, we can persuade—which is how we should argue—persuasively. Make sure you are speaking the truth when you argue, and make sure you test why you are doing it. We can be very self-oriented and say things that are hurtful without thinking, hoping we are being funny. Make sure we think our responses through before we speak up. Just because we think something, doesn’t mean we have to say something. Do the homework first!
Finally, Conscientious type personalities. They are the thinkers. The rule keepers. Very reserved and task oriented. They have a tendency to be those that think things out. They focus. They usually have something good to say. They are the ones that wait until the end of a discussion to weigh in and say something very profound. And… they have a tendency to be right. Why? Because they spend a good deal of time processing and thinking so they respond instead of react. That doesn’t mean they are always right (though, they usually are!), but it does mean they are not speaking without thinking. They do their homework first. Then they wade in. So Conscientious personalities please heed this—don’t shy away from the argument. Bring your truth and logic—and bring it with warmth, kindness, and love. You can be cold and factual in your response. Factual is good—cold is not. You have a tendency to speak truth neutrally. You need to add a little love to your truth. Word and reword your arguments in a way that your opponent knows that you care about them—you want the best for them. Don’t simply state the facts. Maybe better stated, the fact is, God calls us to love. Wrap your comment in the Fruits of the Spirit.
Love is both an attitude and a task. To love someone is to do good to them, to help, give, care for them; and to treat them with kindness, gentleness, and more.
Take some time and understand your opponent. Answer them according to their personality—not your personality. Word your argument in a way that they will understand. It’s not about you bringing what you think is right to school everyone else. It’s about bringing God’s truth (the what) in a way that will edify each other and glorify Him (the how). God calls us to do both—speak the truth and speak it in love. Don’t ignore half of His command. As mom, dad, and a myriad of our teachers told us long ago, think before you speak. Not only on the content of your argument, but on the condition of your argument as well. Most of us don’t think about the condition. As scripture says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19). So—be quick to read and slow to post…
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” God desires mercy from us. Be merciful in your speech, in your arguing, in your response, in your attitude, in your heart, in your life. Give the benefit of the doubt (think about your response before you post it! Respond—don’t react).
Since we are called to love our enemies, there is no room for not showing even more love and respect to our brothers and sisters. We need to change our tone and our speech now—or we may be guilty of not loving. Remember—it’s wrong to be quick to anger, to lack patience, goodness, kindness, and gentleness. Consider what Ralph Waldo Emerson said—“Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”
So which is the more important? To speak the truth in love—of course. So for those of us speaking the truth without love, start working on the condition of our speech and for those of us speaking in love but not being careful with the truth or withholding it, consider that the most loving thing to do can be to speak the truth. If God so loved the world and gave himself for us, we should die to ourselves and live for one another. Then the world will know we are Christians—by our love—not by our ability to win an argument.
“Let all that you do be done from motives of love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
I love you deeply—I really do. Give me your comments and experience below. I only ask one thing… that you speak love in the midst of your truth.
Much love and blessings in Christ alone, I remain your servant…
P.S. Don’t Comment only based on the Title of the post. Understand what is being said. Take the time to be engaged properly. Why do I put this at the end and not in the title or elsewhere? Because many will comment by the title alone—which is so unfortunate. It means they are simply reacting. I can tell in their comments because they will accuse me of saying things that, had they read the post, they would clearly know I didn’t say. Or vice versa. And, I will tell them that they didn’t read the post, and to please go back and read it. Hopefully they will read the post AND this paragraph as well and think twice before they just react in the future. Shalom!
Specifically for Pastors: I know you have some hard people to deal with—I have been one of them. Everyone does that which is right in their own eyes. We can be domineering or non-conflict oriented, selfish, judgmental, and more. I get it that it’s hard. I too, have many stories of my own being confronted by a church member 60 seconds before I started the service. But you are the examples. You are the shepherds. You are the trained ones. The ordained ones. You know the truth. You have studied to know it, to show yourself approved. You have meditated on the One Anothers. You have preached on love numerous times. You have seen the long-suffering and steadfast nature of Christ. And yet… we are still flesh. We still struggle. Find an accountability partner (today) to walk with you and help you love the unlovable. To be your Positive Accountability to help you do the right thing always. To love like Christ as we bring His truths to His Beloved. You can start by calling people “Beloved” instead of “Church.” The Church is His Bride. The Church is His Beloved. It’s a more endearing term. God never calls His people “Church”—but He does call them Beloved. We are His bride. Start seeing His children the way He sees them. After all, I know you’re thankful that He sees you as His Beloved. See your congregation with new eyes. I am praying for you as I write. Bless all those you touch!
About the Author…
Leadership and personality specialist Royce White, CEO and founder of The Caris Group, offers keen awareness and specific solutions to high Dominant pastors, staff, and their congregations on how to help domineering pastors build and maintain strong and healthy leaders and churches. You can pick up his new book, Who’s Killing Your Church? here.
Edited V 2.4 — 20190626-1411
Original V 2.2 — 20190617-1132