Paul calls all of us to speak with truth and love. Speaking 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).
Speaking truth can be a scary thing! We might be afraid that it will not be well received. Or we might be afraid that the truth will cause more harm than good. It can be difficult to trust that the listener will receive our words well. So, Paul adds more insight when he says that love always trusts (1 Corinthians 13:7).
What does it mean to trust as we speak truth? Trust is a strong belief in the other person. Servant leaders base their trust on God’s dependability, not on the performance of that person. They choose to believe that the person is worthy of love because of God’s love for each of us.
Trust does not mean that a leader blindly opens their hearts to a person who has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Trust is earned, but a leader can speak truth in love trusting that God will use it for the good of that person. Speaking truth with trust means extending grace to others and choosing to trust them even more than they deserve. Love is willing to take the risk. Servant leaders learn to push back their fear and speak truth with trust.
Speaking the truth with trust requires balance.
Some leaders may hesitate to speak the truth because they have no confidence in the person to whom they are speaking. They are suspicious of the other person’s heart, perhaps because of some pain in the past from this relationship. The pain or suspicion keeps them quiet and the truth is not spoken. Another leader may believe the best about someone and hope that they will change on their own without hearing the truth. This leader fails to lovingly share the truth.
Other leaders may speak truth but do it with little trust that it will bring growth or change. They recall past mistakes and focus on the failures of the other person. They expect nothing to change. Paul reminds servant leaders to clearly speak the truth that is balanced with trust.
Speaking the truth with trust reveals maturity.
As we learn to speak truth with trust, Paul reminds us that we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Learning to speak truth with trust takes time. Immature leaders may allow their hurt to prevent them from speaking truth when a person shows he or she is untrustworthy. The pain of these difficult experiences makes it difficult to trust others. It takes time and much experience to be able to wisely discern how and when to trust, and to have the courage to risk believing for the best in others. Servant leaders ask Jesus to help them balance truth and trust as they mature as leaders.
Speaking the truth with trust reflects Jesus.
Jesus provides a great example of speaking the truth with trust to Thomas, the disciple that we identify with doubting. He was the last disciple to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).
To the one who doubted Him the most, Jesus spoke tender words of truth and offered a wounded man hope. He did not ignore the unpleasant truth that Thomas doubted. But He spoke with confidence that Thomas would believe. His words invited Thomas to grow and change and they transformed his life. Jesus spoke truth with trust and He teaches servant leaders to do the same.
Until next time, yours on the journey,
For further reflection and discussion:
- Is my natural tendency to speak “truth with trust” or to be “suspicious”? What is the result in my leadership?
- When have I spoken truth, but not with trust? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?
- Is there a relationship in which I have experienced deep hurt that makes it difficult to speak with trust? How might Jesus invite me to speak truth with trust in this relationship?
- How can I speak truth with trust to someone who has clearly shown themselves to be untrustworthy?
- Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke the truth with trust? What can I learn from His example?