Such people appear to be focused only on what they “think” their intention is, which, as they might put it, is... “just being honest.” They wield their “honesty” like a “Get out of jail free card” to say what they want, when and how they want to say it. They seem to think they can be as offensive as they desire, as long as they follow their remarks with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Or, as others might put it, “I’m just keeping it real.” Once this magical incantation is invoked, at least to them, they should be absolved from all they’ve just said, regardless of how hurtful or insulting it may have been.
Three Helpful Questions
Perhaps you have heard the following questions before, but I wanted to share them because I have found them helpful in my own life. These are questions I ask myself before I decide to share my own unsolicited “honesty” with others.
1.) Is it true? Obviously, if you’re going to pass on your thoughts to someone else, you should be communicating the truth. Whether it’s objective truth, or even the truth of your opinion, it should be true. The 112th question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:
Question: What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer: I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbor’s honor and reputation.
While this is certainly helpful for us in thinking through our communication with others, this ought not be all there is to it. There are at least a couple more things for us to consider.
2.) Is it kind? Are your remarks bearing the fruit of Christian kindness? Are they words that will be a blessing and encouragement to the other person? Even if hard words must be spoken, we can still say them in such a way that will make it clear to the person to whom we’re speaking that we have their best interest at heart and not merely our personal agenda.
3.) Is it necessary? Does the person you are “being honest” with need to know you don’t like what they’re wearing, or how they’re raising their children, or how they decorate their house for Christmas? We may desperately want to share our opinions on all those issues and more, but that’s not the same thing as their need to know it.
As a Christian, truth and honesty should be paramount, yet not for the sake of merely sharing our own opinions, but for the sake of helping the other person. If God is not glorified in the transaction of honesty and truth, and if the purpose of the exchange is not the genuine benefit of the other person, then we’re not doing much more than sharing our opinions for the sake of lifting up ourselves. In which case, we should just keep our opinions to ourselves.
- Do you struggle with the desire to share your unsolicited opinion with others (“just being honest), regardless of how it makes the other person feel?
- What do you think the real cause of that desire is?
- Which of the three questions is most convicting to you? Why?
- What other questions would be helpful to you in deciding whether or not you need to pass along your opinion to another person?