God can help an honest person

Some time back, I heard an interview with Brian Williams, the news anchor who exaggerated his adventures as an embedded journalist in the Middle East. I don’t know much about the story. I haven’t followed it, so I don’t know the details. But he did lie. He told stories that weren’t true about things that happened to him. And in the interview he gave, he tried to justify his actions by claiming he didn’t mean to mislead anyone.

Seems kind of weird though, to tell a lie yet claim that you didn’t mean to mislead people. But that’s part of the rationalization we all do when we tell a half-true. I mean, it’s not like you’re even lying. You’re just not sharing the whole truth, and you’re only doing it because the whole story is too complicated. Or it’s too painful. Or it will upset too many people.

No, it’s better to just tell half the facts and let others infer what they want, right? It’s not like you’re willfully deceiving anyone. They’re the ones making up their minds about what you’re saying.

There’s something in our brains that tells us this sort of thinking is okay, but one thing I’ve learned about lies and half-truths, both: You can’t stop with just one.

person-woman-art-creative-smallToday’s verses are 1 Peter 3:10-12.

For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Lying is easy, especially when you’re trying to cover up something you’ve done that you don’t want to admit. Telling the truth is hard. Telling the truth requires humility, the willingness to accept the fact that you screwed up.

Let’s face it. We all screw up. And the more we try to be perfect, the more we screw up because we’re depending on our own strength rather than God’s. When you lie, you’re trusting yourself to find the answer for your problems. When you choose to lie, you’re telling God you don’t want His help, and He’ll honor that. If you’re intent on doing things your own way, He’ll let you.

I love the Bible. It’s practical and simple. Want to know the secret to a happy life you can enjoy? Don’t speak evil, don’t lie, and do good. Notice it says to turn away from evil, meaning that you have a choice. When you encounter evil, regardless of what it may be, you have the option to not give into it. You can seek peace. You can do right. You can look for the Lord.

And that also tells me that even if you’ve done evil in the past, if you turn away from it today, God will hear you. It doesn’t say that God watches over people who’ve never done wrong. It says God watched over people who do right. Present tense. Yesterday doesn’t matter.

We live in a culture of blame and semantics. We point fingers like it’s an Olympic sport. It’s never my fault. It’s always someone else’s. And it may feel easier to let a little white lie slip, thinking you’ll get away with it, but you won’t. Lies and half-truths have a way of coming back to bite you just when you least expect it. And when they come back around, they’re much bigger than the little white lie you let slip. And if you’re a Christ-follower? (Yes, Christ-followers lie sometimes too.) Oh, you know better than to choose to go against what God says is right.

And, yes, lying may be easier at first, but give it time. And a few years down the road, you’ll be in consequences so deep you’ll desperately wish for the chance to make a different choice.

Telling the truth today means you have to own up to your failures. It means you have to admit you’ve done wrong. It might even mean you have to disappoint someone you love. But honesty truly is always the best policy, because God can help an honest person. And other people can too.

No, it won’t be fun, but that’s the result when you screw up. There are consequences. Better to face them now rather than ten years down the road when they’ve turned into a tidal wave threatening to pound you into a pulp.

And the good news? God knows. He knows your heart. And He’s never turned anyone who came to Him seeking away.

Speak truth in love and don’t be afraid

I left a bad review for the restaurant where I had dinner last night. We stayed in this really lovely hotel in Manchester, and this cute little Scottish man came and picked us up in the shuttle. And then he even helped carry our bags. Originally I had thought that we could walk somewhere and get something to eat, but the plans just didn’t work out that way. So we had to stay and eat here in the hotel instead.

No big deal, right? There’s a restaurant. Well, as we’d been checking in, they asked if we wanted to make reservations. I’d said no because I’d expected we would do something else, but our plans changed. So we went to the restaurant and sat down, and the little waiter that showed up was a complete snob about it. We apologized for not having reservations and were more than willing to go make reservations so that we could sit in the completely empty dining room, but he didn’t give us that option. And then he proceeded to be curt and distant through the whole experience. I’ve never felt so unwelcome in a restaurant in my life.

At first I thought maybe I was just misunderstanding. That it was cultural. But as dinner went on and he continued to turn up his nose at us, I had to come to the conclusion that he was just rude. I mean, you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to apologize every time someone comes to your table to take orders or deliver food.

And when the whole thing was done, another little waitress asked us to fill out a comment card. Normally I’m very glad to fill them out, but this time I felt sick about it. Because every question they asked was a No. And there’s nothing that turns my stomach upside down more than having to say bad things about someone’s service or company, even if it’s true.

And the most harrowing part? They wanted your name and your address and what room number you were staying in. And I had a moment where I thought about leaving that part blank. But that’s cowardly. If you’re going to criticize someone, be fair about it, but don’t be anonymous either. If you aren’t willing to stand up and be counted by name when you issue criticism, do you really expect anyone will take you seriously?

waiterToday’s verses are Ephesians 4:14-15.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

We have to tell the truth. Period. That is something God has called us to do. But telling the truth doesn’t have to look like a sledgehammer. You can tell people the truth in a kind way.

And, being honest, telling the truth helps all of you. In the case of our very rude waiter, he needs to understand that the way he’s acting is hurting his employer’s reputation. We wouldn’t have been doing him or them any favors if we’d just acted like nothing had been wrong.

But it’s my hope and intention that the feedback I left was rational and kind. Because our food was great. And the waitress was wonderful. It was just this one person that really damaged the whole experience.

You aren’t helping anyone if you see something is wrong and you do nothing about it. Ignoring the facts or living in denial won’t make the situation go away, and it won’t help you either. But if you aren’t willing to stand behind your statements, no one is going to listen.

But if you’ve been rational, if you’ve been kind, if you’ve actually spoken the truth, you have nothing to worry about. And you shouldn’t be afraid.

So remember that the next time someone invites feedback after you’ve had a bad experience. It’s tempting to just let it go, especially if you don’t like conflict. But ignoring the issues won’t solve anything. It just puts off the inevitable.

Meekness takes more courage than meanness

Imagine you’re sitting around in someone’s living room, chatting about general things, and somebody asks you a question about a topic that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they ask you if you think marijuana should be legalized. Maybe they ask you about marriage rights for gay couples. What do you tell them? How do you respond in that circumstance?

I’ve seen folks react in a couple of ways. Some gracefully change the subject. Some use it as an opportunity to get on a soapbox (liberal or conservative, both are similar in many ways). Most hem and haw and awkwardly give a noncommittal answer that could be taken as either positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. I’m afraid I have to admit to being in that third category most of the time.

I’m a feeler. An introvert. I don’t like conflict or controversy. I want everyone to get along, and–most importantly–I want everybody to like me. So in those circumstances, I generally try to change the subject.

Why? Well, honestly, it depends on the arena. Are you in someone’s home talking pleasantly with people you don’t really know? Or are you hanging out with someone you know well? Are you in a classroom at school where the point is to listen to a teacher? Or are you in a small group environment where you’re encouraged to share your opinions?

I think arena has a lot to do with it, but when you get right down to it, if someone asks you for your opinion, shouldn’t you tell the truth? Shouldn’t you be honest about what you believe and why, regardless of how people react? Or is telling the truth too dangerous to risk all the time?

mouse_10Today’s verses are Acts 24:14-16.

But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.

This passage comes from one of the history books of the Bible, Acts, the early history of the Church. Paul has been arrested and brought to trial, accused of troublemaking and stirring up riots. If you’ve got a bit, you should read the whole chapter.

A group of men are accusing Paul of things they can’t prove–untrue things. Paul’s defense is simple, calm, and composed. Not angry. He doesn’t rant or rave. He doesn’t make it about himself. He just states the facts.

Regardless of our environment, I truly believe that as Christ-followers we are called to be truthful in all our dealings. If someone asks us to weigh in, we need to be honest.

If you know someone is in a relationship that isn’t pleasing to the Lord, and one of the people involved asks you for your opinion, you have the duty to be honest with them in the name of Christ.

If there’s a situation where you work that you’ve been asked to give your perspective on, you are responsible as a follower of Christ to speak truth.

Don’t lie and say nothing is wrong when something is. That’s the easy way out. That’s the coward’s way out. Christ-followers are not called to be cowards. We are called to be bold and courageous, fearless and strong. But don’t get the idea that gives us the right to be bullies either.

In all things, we are to be Christ like, and that means meekness. Quiet strength. Speak truth, yes, but speak it in love. Don’t tear people down. Don’t rip people apart. Don’t pin blame. Don’t use your words to hurt others.

Maybe you want to. Maybe you even feel justified. Maybe everyone around you would even tell you that you’re justified. But you’re not. Nothing gives you the right to tear another person down with your words. If you are a Christ follower, no matter what anyone does to you, your job is to forgive them and love them. Period. God will handle the justice.

I think Paul understood that. His comment about trying to live with a clear conscience before God and all people? That’s how I want to live. I don’t want to live with regrets because I said something I shouldn’t have. But I don’t want to live with regrets that I didn’t speak up when I should have either.

So if you’re called to speak, be honest. Just remember it takes more courage to be meek than it does to be mean. Speak truth in love. Don’t make allowances for wrongdoing or injustice because you’re afraid of repercussions. Don’t take the coward’s way out. Stand firm, be gentle, be honest.

Your conscience will be clear because you will have honored God with your words and your actions and demonstrated that you love the people around you the same way.

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it

The truth can be hard to take sometimes. It’s hard to tell the truth too, but if you don’t, you can get into a world of hurt. Honesty really is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say or hear.

We get used to thinking that we’re right about everything. Our choices. Our lifestyle. Our beliefs. But we aren’t right because we think we are. We’re right because we agree with God and what the Bible says, and it’s frighteningly easy to get off that path. That’s when we need someone to come alongside us and help us find the right way again.

But depending on how that person “helps” us, we may get straightened out or we may twist off even further.

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming poppy at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:15.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know the person you’re talking to is messing up their life but you’re too scared to say anything about it? I’ve been there many many times, and only a handful of times have I had the courage to speak up about it. It’s not easy.

But whenever you end up in those situations, you should never hesitate to speak the truth. The truth being what God says in the Bible. But you need to take care in how you speak it.

You know you have control over your voice, right? You know you can control your tone and your volume? Maybe some people don’t realize that and they think they just have to sound angry all the time.  Or maybe they think people won’t take them seriously if they don’t sound angry.

Have you ever seen comments on Facebook or on news pages? Which comments do you take more seriously? The vicious, biting angry ones? Or the calm, rational ones? Honestly, the angrier someone sounds, the less likely I am to listen to them.

And if you take the truth and bludgeon people into submission, I’m not sure how effective that is either. Sure, maybe it works for a little while. You might be able to convince someone to do what’s right by using the truth like a hammer, but from what I’ve learned, that creates a temporary change in behavior. Not a permanent change of heart.

Truth is powerful enough to change people’s hearts on its own. It doesn’t need our help. There’s no strategy or plan of attack when you’re telling the truth. We just need to let Truth do the work, and we just need to get out of the way.

All we need to do is to remember why we’re intervening. Are you getting involved in someone else’s business because you feel responsible or obligated? Or are you doing it because you love them? If you love them, make sure they know it. If you love them, your tone and your voice and your words will express it. If you love them, you aren’t going to beat them down with your words. You’ll build them up.

No, the truth isn’t easy to speak, but you can speak it in love if you love the person you’re talking to.

So do it. Tell them the Truth. Tell them you love them. And then let it go. If they are going to listen, they will. If they won’t, they’ll do their own thing, and that is their choice. But one day, down the road when they come to their senses, they’ll remember.

But they probably won’t remember what you said. They’ll just remember how you said it.