Repulsive Truth

One thing human beings are notorious for avoiding is the truth. Unless, of course, the truth is that we are attractive, popular, or the latest winners of the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. Often, the truth comes with a sting attached, a pinch that makes it tough to swallow.

But, unless we are content with living in ignorance, knowing the truth is essential. The problem for most of us, what makes it so hard to receive, is how it is delivered.

For the sake of illustration, allow me to create a fictional, yet plausible scenario.

Alan Davids suffers with a condition. His breath is insufferable, only he doesn’t realize it. And he’s a close talker, loves to tell secrets. People avoid getting close to him. They hold their breath when he’s near. Every person in his office has noticed, but no one has bothered to tell him.

Until one day.

Rudy Reynolds decides enough is enough. He relays the truth in one of two ways:

  1. At lunch, in the busy staff cafeteria, he yells from across the room, “Dang, Alan. I can smell your stank mouth from way over here. I swear, you have the worst breath I have ever smelled in my life. I think its time you had a date with a Listerine bottle. Good Lord.”
  2. After lunch, he asks Alan to speak in private. He politely tells Alan about his breath, and how at times it is hard to hold a conversation with him. “I feel horrible bringing it up, but I don’t want your professional or personal life to be strained by this. I’d rather tell you than have you discover that people are talking behind your back.”

Neither scenario is comfortable. In fact, both could end badly, depending on Alan’s response, but what separates the two is the motivation. The first scenario is driven by pride and humiliation. The second, loving concern.

Motivation makes all the difference.

“If truth isn’t undergirded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious & the truth repulsive.” – Ravi Zacharias

Rudy’s lunchroom rant scenario was honest, but his hateful delivery made the truth repulsive, no matter how desperately Alan needed to hear it. A potentially transformative message was diminished to an insult.

And this is how the truth is conveyed far too often. Just look at politics and religion.

I believe the Bible to be the quintessential source of truth, that hell is real, and that Jesus, God himself, died to deliver a fallen mankind from spending eternity there. But even I am sickened by the attempts of some believers to relay the message.

I hate when Christians reduce people to poster-board stereotypes or when I hear preachers yelling about sinners and hell with an angry, judgmental tone.

Nobody responds well to that. It’s obnoxious. Are we not all damnable sinners without the cross?

Scripture presents Jesus as a man full of truth, but also grace. He didn’t shy away from truth, and he didn’t water it down, but his message was motivated by love.

He didn’t kill people with truth. Instead, he let people kill him for the truth.

Some would silence this whole conversation claiming that truth is relative, unknowable. OK. Is that an absolute statement or a relative one? It is impossible to refute the existence of absolutes with an absolute statement. The argument is self-defeating.

I believe in truth. I believe it needs to be shared, whether that be an uncomfortable coworker exchange or the proclamation of the gospel. But there is no place for hate or pride in truth telling.

In every situation, there will always be those who reject the truth, regardless of presentation or motive. That is unavoidable. But may it never be said that the messenger is to blame.

Have you ever been repulsed by the truth? Share in the comments below.

Photo Credit: diegodiazphotography (Creative Commons)

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