I was a young mom and pastor’s wife when a lady in the church (who actually scared me and my children to death) confronted me with my attitude. She didn’t know me well, we’d been at the church barely three months, and I’d had only a few interactions with her. She boldly laid the hammer down on me when she said,
“You just walk all over people!”
I was stunned. And more than a little terrorized.
I guess she thought that was something I needed to hear. And I imagine she believed she was just giving me her dose of honesty for my own good. She may’ve thought, “Well, I’m just telling the truth!”
I may’ve needed a confrontation, but her verbal slam was given without mercy and tinged with a bit of exaggeration. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been guilty of handing out a few doses of brutal honesty myself. How many times have I justified making a verbal slam by running to the safety of “Well, it’s the truth!” I used to think if it was “the truth” then it needed to said. And I still agree the truth needs to be said, sometimes even shouted from the mountain tops. But the privilege of speaking truth can be abused and even bring damage if it’s used as a hammer.
In the book Fierce Women: the Power of a Soft Warrior, I include a list of the characteristics of a beautifully fierce woman. This has been a really hard one for me to learn:
* The Beautifully Fierce Woman is honest but kind.
“Honest but kind” is another way of saying “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
There are times when we need to come alongside a friend (or our husband) and share an uncomfortable word of truth. I call it having a “salty grace talk” based on Colossians 4:6:
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
But there’s a few heart-checks I need to make before I deliver a load of uncomfortable truth:
♥ Seek the Lord first. Spend time in prayer and the Word seeking direction and timing before holding this conversation (James 1:19–20).
♥ Be sure your desire to confront stems from right motives—spiritual restoration for the other and love for him/her as your brother or sister in Christ—not in order to ‘fix things’ more to your liking (1 Thessalonians 5:14–15; Hebrews 12:14–15).
♥ Search your own heart first—is there anything in your own life that needs to be confessed to God or anyone else (Matthew 7:3–5)? If you have unresolved issues you need to deal with those before confronting anyone.
♥ We can’t come with a pious/holier-than-thou attitude and expect to be heard. God opposes that kind of heart (1 Peter 5:5). It may be difficult, but this kind of conversation must be filled with grace, forgiveness, humility and love (Ephesians 3:17; 4:31–32).
When I’m on the receiving end of a salty grace talk, these are a few heart checks I use:
♥ Look for any element of truth in what is being said, even if the one delivering truth may be exaggerating or overreacting. God has allowed this and I need to know what He wants me to learn from hearing this.
♥ If the rebuke is truly a hammer slam without any element of grace, consider whether the other person is reacting out of hurt (hurting people hurt others) and commit to praying for them. Consider holding a follow-up conversation addressing their “hammer-slam” approach.