Continued from here.
There is someone in my life who used to have the gentleness of a sledgehammer – she certainly spoke the truth, but she hit me over the head with it, leaving me with a splitting headache. That is the opposite of speaking the truth in love.
God is never initially harsh with people. His conviction is gentle and only grows harsh if it is necessary to bring about change, and He only uses harshness after repeated gentle attempts remain fruitless. Even then, his “harshness” is for our own protection, much like when a parent yells at a toddler who did not obey the gentle instruction not to walk into the street and is now about to run into traffic. The parent doesn’t start out yelling at the child – the harshness only comes after gentle reminders are ignored to the point that the child is now in imminent danger.
Jesus is gentle and humble, and as his disciples, we need to be the same way:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~ Eph. 4:2
When others have crossed your boundaries, speak truth, but do it in a loving way – in a way that is gentle and kind. Give them the benefit of the doubt that their behavior was unintentional. Let them know that you love them, and let love provide the framework for your gentle words of redirection.
For example, let’s say you have a friend who frequently cancels plans at the last minute. The sledgehammer response is to yell at her, telling her how selfish she is. A gentler response sounds more like this: “I love our friendship and cherish the time that we spend together. I was really looking forward to spending the afternoon together and am disappointed that you had to cancel. In the future, could you let me know as soon as it’s looking like you might have to cancel so I have time to make other plans? I hope we can get together again soon. I really miss you.” While both approaches are speaking truth, only the second one is doing so in love.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drawing a heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]