Monday, October 27, 2014

Truth in Love; Not Love in Truth – The Pain of Having to Believe Another’s Lies

To my knowledge, this has never happened to anyone, anywhere.
Following up on last Friday’s post, as well as more recent events, I’m still thinking about how my decision to love someone has to precede any possibility of speaking the truth to, with, or from them. (Ephesians 4:11-16, and especially v15—“speaking the truth in love”—is the scripture I’ve been contemplating.)
Specifically, this morning I’m thinking about how dearly I love some of my friends, despite the fact that they lie to me.
The Root(s) of Lies
As a pastor, I’m used to hearing from others what they want to believe about themselves. It’s no more true than any other lie would be, but most of the time they are only repeating to me what they hear themselves say. It’s often just wishful thinking about their own character. “I’ll see you at church Sunday.” “Don’t worry about it. I’ll call and order the parts.” “I’m fine. And how are you?” Sometimes, though, it’s more dangerously delusional. “Everybody’s business is a little slow right now. Things will turn around.” “She and I have just hit a little rough patch lately. We just need to make some time for each other.” “A doctor would just say it’s nothing to worry about, so why spend the money?”
Hard to see it grow when he's looking you straight in the eye.
The past few lies, though, were not based on self-deception. They were, in fact, the exact opposite of self-protection. They were lies that left the liars in dangerous situations. The liars lied with the intention to deceive me as to the circumstances they were facing. They gave untrue answers to direct questions about their personal safety.
To be fair, I should note the reason I now know I was lied to. In each case, the person who lied to me has since admitted the truth. I have followed-through as they imagined I would, because, as they know, I am their friend even when they lie to me.
Allowing the Lies
You see, I believe that Christian fellowship, any friendship, and relationships of all types require a commitment to authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability. By authenticity I mean, “What I choose to say is what is true.” Transparency, to me, means, “Whatever is true, I choose to say.” And vulnerability is simply the acknowledgement that when we say what is true, “it may be used in evidence against us.” With regard to my lying friends? In my attempts to live in authenticity and transparency, I willingly make myself vulnerable to the consequences of believing their lies. And in a few cases recently that has motivated them to trust me with the truth.
My biggest problem with the lies? I believed them.
This is not, however, the optimal means of building trusting relationships. Lies can badly damage our friendships. I still believe that authenticity and transparency, despite the vulnerability, is the best course to follow. But if my commitment to these relationships is to mean something, then I must accept its consequences. Creating an environment in which the truth may be spoken requires a commitment to establishing a loving relationship…in which someone may choose to lie for quite awhile longer before entrusting us with the truth.
Deciding to love first, ask questions later, and perhaps only eventually learn the truth about another person’s beliefs, behaviors, situations and circumstances? That commitment costs. And it hurts. But it works. And it’s worth it.


Chris Haughee said...

Bill... thought provoking as always. The time and commitment to delve deeper into one another's lies to get at true transparency is indeed costly. As I have resorted to being more painfully honest in replying to the "How are you?" question, I am noticing about a 30% positive response rate to this raw personal disclosure. That is a lot better than I could have hoped for. As I let people in on the pain generated in a household that contains an emotionally disregulated child, most don't know how to process it. I long for the church to be an authentic place where the people of Christ truly bear one another's burdens, not out of duty, but out of a divine sense of love and gratitude.

Wm. Darius Myers said...

Thanks, Chris, for the comment. The unique challenges you face, along with the unique perspectives you can provide, are invaluable to your congregation's growth toward that authenticity. Of course, it has to start with someone, and the authenticity and transparency DO certainly bring about significant vulnerabilities. But whether in the domestic violence, child custody, infant-heart-transplant, sexual abuse, or other cases in our own ministry, I hesitate to set the burden of openness on shoulders that are already stacked-to-the-rafters. Still, as much as I can model it, and create a safe environment for it, and encourage others to elicit and support fall to those who are living in and through the circumstances to trust Christ sufficiently to trust us with the reality of their stories. In just the brief interactions I've been privileged to have with you, I feel that I at least know better how little I really know (and I've picked up one or two bits of how better to pray, even at such geographic distance). With a couple of our families, in particular, though, I would add that our burden-bearing grows not only out of that divine sense of love and gratitude, but from an awe at what grace and mercy are on display in the resilience, courage, and simple perseverance I see in several of the families I am privileged to serve here. Thanks again!

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