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August 08, 2017

How to Tell Your Friend the Hard Truth


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One of my best friends is like a great French roast coffee: He’s super bold.

In love, he gives people the truth, confronts sin, and speaks the gospel with no reservations, even to people he’s just met. Like the Apostle Paul, he doesn’t shrink back from declaring anything that is profitable (Acts 20:17-21).

Then there’s me. I’m not exactly watered-down coffee, but I’m definitely a light roast.

Maybe my coffee is heavy on the creamer, but I find myself shrinking from saying hard truths because I want every conversation to be comfortable, non-threatening, and free from conflict and the possibility of disappointment.

My coffee smells of self-protection.

How do I break out of that? How do I stop shrinking back in fear and share the hard truth with someone I love?

1. Remember the gospel.

The gospel says those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit are hidden with Christ in God. Therefore, we confidently share the gospel and push back the darkness in ourselves, the world, and our friends. We do so in both demonstration and proclamation because we represent a King and kingdom far greater than anything we could ever comprehend.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Biblical counselor and author Paul David Tripp says,

Love doesn’t go passive and stay silent in the face of wrong. Love moves toward you because you are wrong and need to be rescued from you. In moving toward you, love is willing to make sacrifices and endure hardships so that you may be right again and be reconciled to God and others. God graces us with this kind of love so that we may be tools of this love in the lives of others.

Real Love didn’t shrink back. He moved forward all the way to death. Real love doesn’t shrink back. We follow Christ’s example and lay down our lives, comfort, and resources for others.

Are we speaking love-wrapped truth? Do we believe Solomon when he said, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6)?

Or as Oscar Wilde said, “True friends stab you in the front.”

2. Recognize the root of self-protection.

Self-protection is pride working in tandem with disbelief, fueled by a lie that says God is not as good as he promised and he won’t come through for us this time. When my light roast heart is brewed in this false belief, my obedience will be weak and my apprehension strong because I’m forgetting the gospel.

Hard words, if they be true, are better than soft words, if they be false. (Charles Spurgeon)

3. Remember your need for grace.

We are just as susceptible to whatever sin or struggle our friend is currently battling. Therefore any arrogance we may have must be swallowed up in the gospel.

So we intentionally clothe ourselves in humility, knowing the roles could be reversed at any moment. If not now, soon we will be the one who needs the hard truth. We’re just as desperate for grace and the sustaining power of the gospel.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, emphasis mine)

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him… (Luke 17:3, emphasis mine)

4. Find your security in Christ.

When my worth is based on what others think of me, I’m tempted to avoid speaking hard truths or rebuking in gentleness because my identity will be shaken if it’s not well received. But when our roots are anchored in the completed work of Christ, we will not be shaken or deterred by the hurricane-like winds of people’s opinions or the debilitating fear of rejection.

Because here’s the deal: Anxiety and fear lose their power in the shadow of God’s unshakable security.

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:8-9)

5. Love God’s glory more than anything else.

More than comfort, fear of rejection, the desire for approval, or the desire to be right or point out sin, we fear the Lord and desire him to be worshiped as he deserves. His fame, beauty, and love compel us to speak, rescue, and confront.

Perhaps we can make a slight addition to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, [whether you speak or stay silent,] or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

6. Walk in the Spirit.

Whether we’re prone to self-protection or self-inflation, we are to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In place of self-gratification, we are to be filled with selfless love, which cannot happen apart from the Spirit of Love, after whom we are to pattern our lives and speech.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

So how are we able to speak the hard, love-wrapped truth? We’re not motivated to speak by our desire to elevate ourselves or amplify our egos; we’re motivated by the rescuing love of God demonstrated in Christ.

Here’s to asking God to brew us a little stronger.

[Photo Credit: Lightstock]

Sophie McDonald

Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.