Failure might not be final, but ignored, it can be fatal. In his Thirty Sayings of the Wise, Solomon described a pitfall that can kill: lies. A person who mishandles truth perpetuates a ripple effect of devastating consequences that crush relationships. The king warned: “Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. ‘Eat and drink,’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments” (Proverbs 23:6-8).
We must be wary of the person who might be mishandling the truth against us, by telling us what we want to hear. In that case, we must exercise discretion, meaning, “to separate.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must keenly discern their walk from their talk, in order to expose their true heart. If their behavior matches their words, then we can confidently take the next steps in our conflict management. If they are inconsistent with one another, then we should exercise caution.
At the same time, our words must be truthful in order to honor God who commanded Moses and the Israelites: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). We understand that we are not supposed to lie, but how often do we find ourselves misleading those around us because we are afraid to tell the truth for fear it might hinder our interests, hurt them, or damage someone else? Left to ourselves, we want to be liked more than we desire to be respected. God has designed us to speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15), offering the required truth in gentleness.
Four tools can help us to be truthful, even when it is difficult. They can be remembered in the acronym, ASKS: Ask questions. Share stories. Key in on the other person’s perspective. Speak Scripture, humbly and wisely. Questions generate answers. Statements produce resistance. Asking and listening engage the heart. Stories turn people’s ears into eyes. Keying in on our counterpart’s perspective connects with their mind. Speaking pertinent verses from the Bible imparts wisdom to bring significant life-change, when offered in humility, after first listening.
Do not be the chameleon or foolishly fall prey to one. Utilize the wisdom of the Scriptures and the discretion of the Holy Spirit to navigate through conflict to community.