Speaking the Truth, without Anger

When we are angry, we usually open our mouths! And what comes out is not usually very loving, especially when we have been deeply hurt. Paul challenges us to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). This is a difficult challenge when we are angry. But Paul goes on to make it very clear that love “is not easily angered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When I am angered easily, it indicates that I’m not practicing love, no matter what I say with my mouth!

Imagine that a close friend betrays your confidence. You shared a personal prayer request and later discovered that your friend had told others! What will you say? Servant leaders learn from Paul to speak truth but without being easily angered.

Speaking the truth without anger requires balance.

When you see your friend, you might explode and say loudly, “I can’t believe you told others what I shared with you; that was so wrong. I’ll never talk to you again!” Did you speak the truth? Yes, but with a lot of anger!

Or you might be so angry at your friend that you decide never to trust them again but choose not to speak about what happened. So, you keep quiet and fail to speak the truth!

Paul calls us to balance truth and love. We should speak the truth but not with anger. We cannot ignore what happened, but we should only speak when we are not consumed with anger. We may need to acknowledge our anger but find a way to speak with gentleness. Perhaps you can say, “What you did really hurt me, and I was very angry about it. God helped me to forgive you, but I would like to talk about what happened so that it does not destroy our friendship.” This is truth spoken with love!

Speaking the truth without anger reveals maturity.

How easily am I angered? That’s a test of my maturity. Immature leaders quickly become angry. If I am quick to become angry, I need the Spirit to keep working in me to produce patience and gentleness in my heart. Then I need to think about what I say when I’m angry. Being able to balance truth and gentleness is also a test of maturity. It is much easier to explode in anger than to speak the truth gently in love!

To speak with love and without anger when we have been hurt is a sign of maturity which often takes a long time. That’s why Paul says that as we learn to speak the truth in love we will, “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Servant leaders learn that sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and let God help them control their anger before they say anything. But then, when their anger is controlled, they seek courage from God to address the issue truthfully in the right spirit. Mature servant leaders are able to speak truth without being easily angered.

Speaking the truth without anger reflects Jesus.

Jesus’ life shows us that it is not always wrong to be angry. He was angry when others were mistreated, when His Father’s house was misused and when peoples’ hearts were stubborn. But he was not ‘easily angered’ and did not react to personal insults or betrayal.

Even when Jesus knew that Peter would betray Him, He calmly spoke the truth with no hint of anger. Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).Later, after Peter denied Him,Jesus simply looked at Peter. We don’t know what Jesus ‘said’ with His eyes but it must not have been a look of anger since His look caused the bold Peter to weep tears of grief and repentance. (See Luke 22:61).

Jesus spoke truth without being easily angered and He calls all servant leaders to follow His example.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” with anger or to keep quiet when I’m angry and avoid the truth? What is the result in my leadership? 
  • When have I spoken truth, but with anger? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Do I need to ask forgiveness of that person?
  • What times in Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that Jesus was not “easily angered”? How would I have responded to these situations?
  • Look at the following passages in which Jesus was angry or spoke very strong words: Mark 3:1-5; Matthew 23:1-4; John 2:13-22. Reflect on what happened in these situations. What can we learn about the things He was angry about? How did He speak truth in these situations? What can we learn from His example?
  • Reflect on what James teaches about anger in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” What does this teach us about speaking the truth without being easily angered?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth, without Self-Seeking

When Paul calls us as leaders to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), he clearly wants what we speak to be true. But when he explains that love is “not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5), Paul goes deep into our hearts to expose the reasons why we speak truth.

What we say matters but our motive for saying it also matters! Paul recognizes that we may speak truth, but our motive is to benefit ourselves rather than the other person. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says we should speak “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.The truth should benefit the other person, not the speaker.

Servant leaders learn from Paul to speak the truth without any hint of personal gain. Their focus is outward, not inward. They focus on the needs of the other, not themselves.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking requires balance.

Both truth and an unselfish motive are required for balanced speech. Many leaders have a passion to speak truth, but their motive is selfish. Perhaps they think that the truth will make them look better than the other person, since they don’t have that problem. Or they may realize that the person’s mistake is hindering the growth of the organization, so they decide to speak the truth. But their motive is to advance the organization, not to meet the needs of the person. Or they may speak truth to respond to something that hurt them personally. These motives are all seeking self!

On the other hand, a leader may have genuine love for the other person but fear that speaking the truth will cause offense or damage the relationship. So, they say nothing, and the truth is lost! Both truth and a focus on the needs of the other person are needed. Sometimes speaking the truth in love will benefit the other person and benefit themselves or the organization. But servant leaders don’t allow their own interests to determine their actions. Instead, they look to the needs of the other.

The needs of the other, not the needs of the leader, determine what will be said and how it will be spoken. Servant leaders balance truth with the motive of meeting other’s needs.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking reveals maturity.

All leaders are naturally selfish, so maturity is required to speak truth with no hint of self-seeking! Because motives are often hidden, servant leaders take time to ask God to expose what is hidden in their hearts.

When they make mistakes, servant leaders repent and ask God to continue changing their hearts and revealing hidden motives. They ask God to break their proud hearts and pour His love for others into the places that once were focused only on self. This breaking often happens over a long period of time as a leader walks in daily obedience to Jesus. As servant leaders grow in maturity, their words of truth expressed in genuine love become life-giving gifts to those who hear them.

Speaking the truth without self-seeking reflects Jesus.

Jesus was able to speak truth without seeking His own needs. In John 5:28-30, He says, 28“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

The truth that Jesus spoke was difficult to accept but He spoke boldly. At the same time, He was not saying these things to please Himself or to make Himself look good. He spoke the warning that His listeners needed to hear.

Servant leaders reflect on Paul’s words and follow the example of Jesus to speak truth without self-seeking.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to focus on my needs, or on the needs of those I speak to? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken truth, but was seeking self? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Is there anything I should do now to correct that mistake?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke truth without self-seeking? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.