There is a well-known (and yet completely unknown) group of people with a lot of wisdom. They. They say honesty is the best policy and I think They are right.
Sometimes, however, we use honesty as an excuse or a cover for—dare I say it so bluntly—rudeness. We turn honesty into a weapon against others when really we should use it as a mirror on ourselves.
We use the Bible this way, too. We weaponize and externalize what should be a mirror.
In Ephesians, we are told that once we know the transforming love of God we will be compelled to live differently. One change is that we will “put away all falsehood [and] speak the truth to our neighbors” (Ephesians 4:25).
Too often I’ve seen and heard this passage used as a license to tell other people they need to change. Speaking truth becomes an excuse for judging and condemning other people. We forget the admonition Jesus gave in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
The love of God transforms us, in part, by bringing us to an awareness of our own shortcomings. In The United Methodist Church, we explain it this way: “Grace brings us to an awareness of our sinful predicament and of our inability to save ourselves; grace motivates us to repentance and gives us the capacity to respond to divine love.”
Grace isn’t a license to judge or correct other people’s behavior. Instead, grace awakens us to how much judgment and correction we need or deserve.
Once we understand our own faults, we see that Ephesians 4:25 isn’t a license to correct other people’s behaviors or beliefs. This verse is an invitation to bask in God’s forgiveness by sharing it. Just a few verses later, we read “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Ultimately this passage directs us to do something rarely seen in today’s style of discourse: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). In fact, we should “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
We should imitate the loving forgiveness and kindness Jesus exemplified, not pretend we have the authority of God to judge or condemn.
I guess what They say is right, honesty is the best policy. But it’s a policy best applied to ourselves before we unleash it on others.
What do you think? Is honesty the best policy? Have you seen it used as a weapon or an excuse for rudeness? What does it mean to you to speak the truth? Tell me about it in the Comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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