Honesty in relationships. It’s a tricky business. Actually, it’s pretty straightforward, but incredibly difficult. And the church is full of some guarded people. I should know! I am one of them.
It’s hard to be vulnerable. To put yourself out there, blemishes and all. To voice an unpopular opinion or tell someone a truth they would rather not hear. To not be the hero of your stories every once in a while. To be the real you with no flinching or retreating. And it’s even tougher if you’ve tried it before and it hasn’t worked out so well. Well-intentioned people have a habit of descending on your moment of rawness with Christian clichés or trite dismissals. I’ve doubtless been that person more times than I’d like to own up to.
Growing up in the church was a blessing I wouldn’t return. But the flip side of the coin is that it’s entirely too easy for all the things in Christian culture to come so naturally to me that I forget to hone in on my motivations. To give pause to my Christianese before it tumbles out of my mouth. To remove myself from the tradition and really ponder what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Boy, I have a hard time with the balance speaking the truth in love. In an effort to authentic, I catch myself unleashing what I think on friends or innocent bystanders more harshly than I should…if the thought should even be expressed in the first place. Or I say something I don’t really mean just because I know what the person across from me wants to hear and I want them to like me.
It’s important for me to give others a candid representation of myself (and sometimes I don’t have a choice–my face gives me away). But there’s also times to be more reserved. Still sincere, but softer. More filtered. Wise. During a meeting at work, for example. Or in a friendship that hasn’t been tried and tested yet.
Let’s face it–conflict is the universal truth. And everyone deals with them in different ways. There’s the debater that sinks their teeth into the argument and tries to corral you and won’t let up until you see it their way. There’s the sweep-it-under-the-rugger that would rather die than meet the situation head on. And there’s the passive aggressive I’ll-smile-at-you-but-watch-your-backers.
I loathe passive aggressiveness. I would rather someone be frank with me, even if I don’t like what they have to say, than to say sweet things that ring false. And in turning my view back to the mirror, I have to tell you that I probably detest it so strongly because it’s a trait I see in myself that I wish wasn’t there. In fact, squish the last two reactions to conflict together and that’s probably where I land on the spectrum.
I’m drawn to friends that allow me to be transparent and reciprocate; it’s the common thread in all my best friendships. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve made it. I continually have to fight against adopting a self-protective stance.
So, like I said it’s a tricky business. I haven’t quite mapped out all the landmines, so if you see me tiptoeing around testing the ground before I step, you’ll know why. In the meantime, I’m going to be trying to figure out how to live up to Zechariah 8:16-17 and we’ll see how it all goes.
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”