When keepin’ it real goes wrong

Have you ever said something that seemed so perfect in the moment, only to look back on it years later with disgust?

There I was holding the microphone, standing in front of about two hundred students. My task was to pick a few from the crowd to share their dreams for the future. My eyes fell on the girl waving her arms wildly from the front row. “What is your dream?” I asked.

“I’m want to be a singer. I want to sing in church.”

And then it hit me. Give these students a little taste of keepin’ it real. Show them how relevant you are. Oh boy.

See guys, I said. She doesn’t want to dress like a slut and dance around a stage like (insert pop sensation here). She wants to use her talent for God!

Cool, right? How pathetic. Sure, it got applause. It even caused an elderly lady towards the back to smile wide and pump her fists in excitement. But for what?

I still cringe when I think about it. That, folks, is how keepin’ it real goes so very wrong.


Why do we assume ending a rant with, “Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real,” somehow makes the preceding hateful words acceptable.

Why don’t we just call it what it is, jerk speech with a bow on it, nothing more than flimsy justification for rude behavior.

The logic is understandable; with such a focus on political correctness, beating around the bush is on track to becoming an olympic sport. It’s hard to say anything without offending someone. Almost daily some public figure is apologizing for the way a statement was received.

It’s ridiculous. But unfiltered speech is not the solution.

Honesty is important on every level of communication. People need truth no matter how difficult it may be to digest. However, the method needs careful consideration.

It all comes down to motive.

Self-seeking motives result in broken relationships. If my motive for telling someone how I feel is to shame or belittle, I may succeed, but I’ll end up drinking the same bitter poison I poured out on them.

If my motive is pride, my words may swell my self-perception, but I will eventually shrink in the eyes of others.

Ultimately, there is only one healthy approach:

Speak the truth in love.

Not that it’s easy. Speaking the truth in love still stings sometimes, but at least it doesn’t mortally wound.

There is a story about Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman, which was a subject of racial and religious tension in that day; Jews and Samaritans were bitterly opposed. But Jesus sparks conversation and begins telling the woman who he is. During their chat, he drops a brutal zing, seemingly out of nowhere.

Jesus: Go call your husband and bring him back here.

Woman: I don’t have a husband.

Jesus: This is true. You have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you are living with now.

Ouch. What happens next is amazing. She doesn’t cuss him out or run away crying. She asks him questions about proper theology, probably to change the subject, but also because she sees something remarkable in him, not judgment or hatred, but divine wisdom and genuine concern.

Jesus confronted her with some painful truth, and he didn’t sugar-coat it. What made the difference was his motivation: love-fueled restoration. He offered an escape from chasing things that fail to satisfy. She left with transformed perspective.

This changes everything. What if we used this template? It doesn’t guarantee a positive response from every person, but pure motives have transformative power. So, keep it real. But before you open your mouth, challenge your motives.

How do you walk the line between honest and harsh? Join the comments below.

Photo Credit: nokapixel (Creative Commons)

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2 responses to “When keepin’ it real goes wrong”

  1. Jennifer Malaga Dunning says :

    “Speaking the truth in love….” Seriously…your tongue is the most powerful weapon you have. Use it wisely! Sometimes people…it’s good to have a filter! Yes? Amen brother, I couldn’t agree more.
    Also, my hat is off to the woman. Most people would not respond in that kind of matter. I think your response is just as important; Remember to be patient and slow to anger! Love this post.

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