Recently my pastor expressed that some people viewed him as being soft, too flexible, and yielding too easily. Being seen as compromising was viewed as a flaw or weakness. To those comments he replied, “Yes, I am!” He noted that all our communication should have both grace and truth, but he would rather err on the side of grace than ruin a relationship by having too much truth.
Speaking the Truth in Love
That simple explanation resonated with me because I had been wrestling with this same issue: how to share truth with grace and without offense. How do I share with a co-worker or employee that their work needs improvement without sacrificing a trusting relationship? How do I warn family members of the danger of their behaviors without alienating them? As a Christian nurse, how can I to speak the truth in love to those I care for?
This Scripture passage come to mind about grace and truth in our relationships: “Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NAS). What does it mean to season our conversation with salt? Renowned Bible commentator Matthew Henry suggested that salt keeps our words savory and saves them from corruption. Henry also reminded us that our answers to another may differ from person to person. Each situation is unique and should cause us to pause before speaking. Speaking the truth can be hurtful even if it’s the truth! In some instances, the truth told in a certain way can destroy a relationship.
Jesus: Full of Grace and Truth
Truth can be shared in an insensitive, calloused way, or it can be shared gently, lovingly, seasoned with salt to make it more palatable and to keep us from wrong-doing.
Jesus is referred to as full of grace and truth (John 1:7). In striving to be more like Christ in our relationships, displaying both of these attributes is critical. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him, who is the head, that is Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).
As I’ve grown in age and faith, I’ve begun to do more “cost-benefit analysis” in relationships. For example, before having a crucial conversation in the workplace, I ask myself how what I say might affect that person and our relationship—and is it worth it? Sometimes it is best not to say something that is hurtful—even if it is the truth—if it doesn't produce good fruit or benefits. I choose, as my pastor expressed, to err on the side of grace, remembering that it is all about relationship!
Kris Mauk, PhD, DNP, RN, CRRN, GCNS-BC, GNP-BC, FARN, FAAN, is the senior editor at JCN and a professor of nursing at Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, CO.
This post is excerpted from Kris’ article in the current Journal of Christian Nursing. Print and online subscriptions to JCN are included in NCF membership—join today!