Sunday, September 5, 2010

Speaking of Truth

Bold support is a term that gets used among a certain group of people I know. I use it occasionally, depending on the context, but I've started using a different term for it recently. Different people have different definitions of "bold support," so sometimes it can be a challenge to know exactly what people mean when they use the term. Some people think it means to tell people something they don't want to hear. A few people have described bold support as getting in someone's face and being confrontational. I don't necessarily want to practice either of those definitions, so I have turned to an older phrase for the same action: "speaking the truth in love."

The phrase appears in a religious text, but it doesn't really have anything to do with spiritual beliefs. Rather, "speaking the truth in love" is a way of engaging with other human beings that is at once bold and supportive, while maintaining a deep connection. Some people are good at speaking the truth. They may do so for any number of reasons. It isn't actually hard to say honest things if you don't care what anybody else thinks. The problem is that the truth can be presented in such a harsh manner that it is impossible to hear.

Some people are much better at saying loving things. They know exactly how to encourage, uplift, commiserate, console, and compliment. Sometimes there's an ulterior motive, and sometimes people are just trying to be nice. The issue with just saying loving things is that they are shallow without being rooted in actual truth. I'm sure you can think of a dozen useless loving things to say to someone who didn't get a promotion or reached the end of a relationship. It doesn't really support another person to give dishonest compliments or glib encouragement, no matter how good it may feel in the moment.

Of course, some people's words of "bold support" are neither truthful or loving. They wind up being opinions expressed as facts for the sake of telling someone else how they ought to be. Truth has an actual meaning beyond what any individual thinks. Our creative minds can invent all sorts of conclusions from the minutest details, but truth is really about the verifiable data one has. Sorting this from all of the opinions and beliefs we create ourselves can sometimes be a challenge.

For me, "speaking the truth in love" captures what I want my bold support to look like. I think the phrase is also less subject to interpretation if someone really thinks about the concept. I've seen it at work this week, and I've noticed how much I feel at home with that level of connection. I've been envisioning a world where people practice speaking the truth in love more frequently. I thought you might be interested in getting in on that action.

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