Earlier this morning I read a request posted in the Facebook group for the women's group at my chuch. The post was written by a mom inquiring if anyone knew of any childcare services that cared for sick children. I remembered that dilema and had been thankful that during my son's early years my husband's employer had a very generous sick day policy and I worked as a substitute teacher who could simply say, "I'm not available today."
There were the usual comments like, "I'm sorry I don't know of anything but I will ask around", "I will pray that you find some resources" and so forth but then another comment popped up rather unexpectedly from someone who said they were "speaking the truth in love". She told the woman that if her children were sick it was her place to be at home with them rather than at work. Then she proceeded to criticize her for not making her children her top priority.
There is not a mother who would not agree that when their child is sick (or well) they not only need to be there, they want to be there! In fact, I believe even mothers who have chosen to work outside the home because they love their career always have that "I wish/want to be there" feeling unless they are too self-absorbed to care.
Needless to say, other moms were horrified at this "truth spoken in love" and spoke up in defense of the first woman. The second woman held her ground. She was, after all only "speaking the truth in love".
That's when the first woman spoke again and I have to hand it to her, she did it gracefully. She told her that she knew she meant well but she did not fully understand the situation. It turns out that she was a single mom and therefore the sole provider for her family. Over the past several months she had missed a lot of work due to several surgeries. In addition to that there had been some school closings due to the weather as well as other illness in the home. She had in fact spent more time away from work than she had spent at work and was in danger of being let go from her position. Her children were not in need of care at the moment but she wanted to find a back-up resource so this wouldn't happen again. In other words, this was not an irresponsible mother wanting to thrust her children on someone else while she went about her business. This was a loving, desperate mom, who was looking for help to solve a difficult situation. She was a mother who was doing the best she could under the circumstances.
I am sure, at least I hope, that once the second woman knew the whole story, it changed her perspective.
I have reached the point where I shudder when I hear those words, "I'm speaking the truth in love" because it seems like those words are often followed by words that cruelly pierce your heart. That's not speaking the truth in love folks so let's stop saying that it is. There is nothing loving about it!
I have a very dear friend who over the years has "spoken the truth in love" to me and never once have her words cut me down. They have built me up. Her words may cause me remorse but they do not condemn me nor crush me with guilt. My friend is a good listener as well as observer. She knows how to wait on the Lord. If she feels troubled in regards to me, she asks God to give her words of wisdom, words that will build me rather than tear me down.
As I write this, I can almost hear her pause and then gently say, "You know I don't want to hurt you, I want to help you" before she proceeds. At this point, because God has prepared my heart to receive her words, because I know my friend really does love me and does not enjoy correcting me, because I am naturally a crier when my emotions get stirred up, I am usually crying and her words are like a gentle, healing, life-giving rain penetrating deep within my heart. In other words, my friend does not merely say she is speaking the truth in love, she does it!
When the Holy Spirit speaks the truth to me in love, it does not make me feel worse, it makes me want to do better. Does that make any sense? It is the difference between condemnation and conviction which means "to be convinced of the truth". The former makes you feel worse whereas the latter makes you want to do better.
Before we "speak the truth in love", let's make sure we really are.
P.S. I just checked the post I mentioned once again and the second woman apologized to the first woman admitting that she did not fully understand the situation. The first woman gave a very loving and gracious reply and I just learned another lesson in how to give grace. It would have been so easy to take offense, be hurt and be angry but that didn't happen. In fact, I believe two women who did not know each other may have just become friends!