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    Honest and Genuine Relationships

 

The passages below are taken from Bill Hybels’ book “Honest to God?” published in 1990 by Strand Publishing.

 

     Forming proper philosophies of masculinity and femininity brings us one step closer to authentic Christianity. The next step goes beyond how we see ourselves to how we relate to one another.

     We yearn for relationships where we can be completely honest, open, and vulnerable. Where we can share failures as well as successes, shortcomings as well as strengths. Where we can reveal doubts and fears. Where we can find empathy and confidentiality.

     These intimate, authentic relationships are exactly what God has in mind for us. He created us for relationships, and wants us to experience them at their best.

     Over the years certain people have informed me that they don’t need such relationships. But they’ve been unconvincing. Their overdone bravado has always struck me as a poor cover-up for their disappointments in building good relationships.

     All of us long for deep, authentic relationships marked by integrity and open communication. But how often do we experience them? Occasionally? Once in a lifetime? Never?

     During the last decade and a half, I’ve heard many tales of relationships marred by hidden hostilities and unspoken hurts. While a number of factors contribute to this, I believe the biggest problem is that too often we violate the basic requirement of authentic relationships: honesty. Learning how to tell others the truth is the basis of genuine relationships and the goal of this chapter.

 

A GREAT THEORY, BUT..

     “If I told my boss the truth, he would blow his stack.”

     “If I told my husband how I feel about his constant traveling, he would get defensive and withdraw even more.”

     “If I told my parents how frustrated I am in school, they would be too disappointed to understand.”

     “If I told my wife how sexually frustrated I am in our marriage, she would accuse me of having a one-track mind.”

     “If I told my professor the real reason I didn’t finish my paper on time, she would dock my grade.”

     On and on we go, explaining why we can’t afford to tell the truth.

     Few of us debate the biblical position on truth-telling. Speak the truth in love. Don’t bear false witness. Lay aside falsehood, speak truth to one another. (See Ephesians 4:15; Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25.) We agree in theory that honesty is the best policy. It’s the key to authentic relationships.

     But in those awkward moments when we stand face-to-face with someone, knowing they may not readily receive the truth, truth-telling doesn’t sound like such a great idea. It might be okay for someone I else, but not for us.

 

A PERFECT EXAMPLE

     One day when I was getting ready to step out of the shower at the YMCA where I work out, I noticed another man step out ahead of me. After making sure no one was watching, he grabbed my towel, dried himself, threw the towel on the floor, and then headed for the locker room. I couldn’t believe it!

     I was upset by his action, and, being the forthright, fearless, outspoken, born activist that I am .. . I said absolutely nothing. I’ve learned over the years to mind my manners around people bigger and stronger than I. But this guy was little and old. He was probably free-basing his vitamins! And still I said nothing---on the outside. On the inside I was raging “Excuse me, mister. That was my towel you just profaned. And I am more than a little perturbed about it!”

     The man didn’t know it was my towel he had just ripped off, so when I entered the locker room, he tried to engage me in friendly conversation: the stock market, the Bears’ players strike, the weekend, the weather forecast. What did I do? I joined in the conversation and graciously submerged my feelings about what he had done. We dressed and parted ways.

     But you know what? The next time I see that man, the first thought that’s going to cross my mind is, “Why did he swipe my towel?” That man doesn’t know it, but there’s a major blockage in our relationship.

 

PEACE-KEEPING OR TRUTH-TELLING

     Why didn’t I just say, “Excuse me, sir, that’s my towel”? or “Sir, did you forget your towel? I’ll be happy to get you one.” Why didn’t I engage myself in the situation honestly?

     I’ll tell you why. Because it’s human nature to prefer peacekeeping over truth-telling. Most of us will do almost anything to avoid conflict.

     Years ago I saw a television show where a camera was hidden in a restaurant. An actor entered, sat next to a man eating at the counter, and without saying a word, grabbed some French fries off the man’s plate. This scenario was repeated numerous times, and nine times out of ten the victims never said a word. You knew they were doing a slow burn inside; they clenched their fists and glared at the thief in disbelief. But they never said a word.

     When people submerge their true feelings in order to preserve harmony, they undermine the integrity of a relationship. They buy peace on the surface, but underneath there are hurt feelings, troubling questions, and hidden hostilities just waiting to erupt. It’s a costly price to pay for a cheap peace, and it inevitably leads to inauthentic relationships.

 

ENTER THE TUNNEL

     In his book The Different Drum, Scott Peck presents an interesting theory about relationships. He says God designed us to yearn for open, honest, authentic relationships---”communal” relationships. But because we choose peace-keeping over truth-telling, we end up in “pseudo-communal” relationships instead.

     These are marriages, family relationships, or friendships that are strictly surface level. No one says anything “unsafe.” They never discuss misunderstandings, reveal hurt feelings, air frustrations, or ask difficult questions. The underlying rule in pseudo-community is: Don’t rock the boat. Don’t disturb the peace.

     But it’s a counterfeit peace. Misunderstandings arise, but they’re never resolved. Feelings beg to be shared, but they’re not. Offenses occur, but nobody talks about them. Doubts about the other’s integrity creep in, but they’re never dealt with.

     In time such relationships deteriorate. The secret agendas of hurt and misunderstanding lead to detachment, distrust, and bitterness. Feelings of love begin to die. It’s the story of too many marriages, family relationships, and friendships.

     Peck says the only antidote to pseudo-community is chaos---I call it “the tunnel of chaos,” where hurts are unburied, hostilities revealed, and tough questions asked. Skiers know that if they want to drive from Denver to Vail, Colorado, they have to go through the Eisenhower Tunnel, It doesn’t matter how much they dislike tunnels. If they want to make it to Vail, they have to go through that tunnel. Likewise no matter how unpleasant the tunnel of chaos is, there’s no other route to authentic relationships.

 

A TALE OF TWO DOGS

     Awful things can happen in that tunnel. One person in a relationship may decide to leave the counterfeit peace of pseudo-community by revealing a long-concealed wound that hampers the relationship. Timidly he enters the tunnel. It’s scary, but he cares about the relationship and wants to improve it. So he takes the risk.

     What happens? All heck breaks loose! The counterfeit peace shatters in an explosion of hostility that feels terrible.

     I know.

     Early in our marriage I realized that Lynne and I were in pseudo-community. I didn’t know the term back then, but I knew I felt detached from Lynne because of grievances I had stored up against her. I’m a fairly confrontive person, and I decided to air these issues so I could relate to Lynne more authentically.

     During a vacation at a beautiful lake in Wisconsin, I asked her to join me on the dock. It was a lovely evening; the water shimmered in the golden glow of the sinking sun. It was the perfect time for a little “heart to heart.” I carefully articulated the truth as I saw it. My communication skills left a bit to be desired, but I spoke as lovingly and sensitively as I knew how to at that time. I fully expected a comfortable conversation and a heartfelt apology.

     Instead I watched as my beautiful, spiritual, well-mannered, five-foot-four, one-hundred-and-five-pound French poodle turned into a Doberman pinscher. With both ears laid back, her eyes on fire, and her teeth bared, she let me have it! I couldn’t believe it.

 

PLAN B

     I decided then and there that truth-telling was a bad idea. Maybe pseudo-community wasn’t ideal, but it sure beat chaos. I wanted my French poodle back! I decided to opt for Plan B. Submerge the feelings. Suppress the truth. Ignore the issues. Back off. Keep the peace.

     In all fairness to Lynne, I have to tell you that her attempts at truth-telling had met with the same resistance. More than once in the early years of our marriage, she tried to tell me how deeply my workaholism was wounding her. More than once, I stonewalled her. I suggested that she fix her insecurities, grow up, and “help me instead of hold me back.” Eventually she too settled for Plan B.

     What did we accomplish? We simply postponed our appointment in the tunnel. We thought that if we ignored our problems they would eventually go away. Instead they turned over and over in our minds, like meat on a rotisserie grill, and became more and more inflamed. The chaos we eventually faced made the evening on the dock look like child’s play.

     We made the mistake of believing that the other’s initial defensiveness was the end of the world, so we backed off. In reality, the defensive reaction was simply the opening to the tunnel of chaos. If we had entered the tunnel, and then talked our problems through to a resolution, we could have moved into true community. But we were so frightened that we made a U-turn and headed back into years of pseudo-community.

     Thank God, our frustration eventually led us to tell the truth and let the chips fall. We did find out that the tunnel of chaos is a frightening place to be. But when we came out the other side, we realized that going through the tunnel was a small price to pay for the open communication and freed-up love of an authentic relationship. It was worth it.

     Before I share some of the guidelines we found helpful in telling the truth, I want to introduce you to a few folks who don’t want to pay the price for open communication. Oh, they’re all for authentic relationships. They desperately want to enjoy true community with their family and friends. But they’re convinced they can get there without going through the tunnel. They know how traumatic truth-telling can be, so they’ve come up with some “safer” methods.

 

Henry the Hint dropper

    Henry believes outright truth-telling is crude and brash and upsetting. So he devises an ingenious plan to accomplish the same objective, without actually having to tell the truth.

     Henry has been in pseudo-community with his wife since she decided to re-enter the marketplace. She’s having a hard time juggling a full-time job, two junior high kids, a husband, a house, and meals, and Henry is having a hard time adjusting to her new schedule. He’s feeling a bit neglected by his once attentive wife. At first he tries to submerge his frustration, and not say anything. But eventually detachment and bitterness set in, and he decides he has to do something. He wants to move out of pretense and back into marital intimacy where he belongs.

     He could say, “Honey, I’m hurt. I feel neglected. I know you’re juggling a lot, but we can’t go on like this. How can I help? What solution can we come up with?”

     But that’s not Henry’s style.

     One night as his wife scrambles to get dinner on the table, Henry looks over the top of his Wall Street Journal and says, “You know, honey, I’m thinking of buying stock in Stouffer’s frozen dinners.” Oh, that was a good one, he think to himself. She says, “What did you mean by that, Henry?” He says, “Oh, nothing. I just heard some takeover rumors.” He only wants to plant a seed, you know.

     Later that evening Henry tells his wife that a friend at work finds romantic notes tucked in his pocket three times a week. “That’s some woman Frank’s married to.” He thinks he’s really communicating now. He’s on a roll! The capper comes when he tells his wife he saw an ad for a new outfit called “Rent-a-Wife.”

     While Henry congratulates himself on his clever subtlety, his wife contemplates the joys of homicide. Eventually she says, “Okay, Henry, cut the games. Enough cute stuff. If you have a problem, let’s talk about it!” She didn’t appreciate his hint-dropping ploys, and in an instant, they’re smack dab in the middle of the tunnel.

     Hint-droppers want to avoid the tunnel at all costs, but they only postpone the meeting, and in the process, they add insult to injury. On top of the initial problem they heap all the damage done during the hint-dropping era.

 

Mary the Manipulator

     Mary has a serious marriage problem---her husband. He’s a mild-mannered, peace-loving, laid-back man who’s not nearly as motivated or energetic as Mary thinks he should be. And she should know, shouldn’t she? I mean, isn’t she the standard by which everyone else is to be evaluated?

     After six years of marriage to a man who uses only sixty-watt light bulbs, she’s had it. It’s time to do something---to “should” him into action. “Carl, you should do something. Every time I see you, you’re vegetating.” “Carl, you should spend more time with Jimmy. He’s having trouble with math again.” “Carl, you should take night classes and improve yourself.” “Carl, you shouldn’t spend so much time watching TV,” “Carl, you should take up jogging” She’s like a recording: Carl, you should. Carl, you shouldn’t.

     Mary the Manipulator hopes to reshape Carl into someone with whom she can experience true community. Little does she know what’s going on in Carl’s head while he lies on the couch listening to her ranting. He’s marveling at her arrogance and moralizing. He’s astounded by her not-so-well-concealed attempts to re-create him. And this mild-mannered man is on the brink of coming to life!

     He’s about to stand up and say, “Okay, Mary, enough is enough. I’m different from you, Mary---no better or no worse, just different. God made me this way, and you have no right to try to remake me in your image. If you would like me to take up jogging, then feel free to tell me that. You have a right to express your desires. But don’t tell me I should do it. Only God can tell me what I should and should not do. Understand?”

     Mary wanted to avoid the tunnel, but she’s in it now! And Carl’s hoppin’ mad about her manipulating ways. Her “safer method” got her in deep weeds.

 

Gary the Guilt-tripper

     Gary’s trump card is one we’re all familiar with. “Gee, Fred! After all I’ve done for you, you refuse to do this one little thing for me. How could you?” Or, “Jim, what do you mean, you can’t go with me?! I was depending on you. Now, I’ll have to go alone, and I’ll probably get mugged or something!” Or, “Well, if that’s all your mother and I mean to you. . . okay then. . . no problem from us.” Or, as I heard recently, “It’s your choice, Pastor Hybels. If you won’t respond to my request, I’ll go to a church where the pastor loves his people. There’s no reason to stay at this church!”

     Don’t you just love to be spoken to like that? Nothing brings out the worst in us like a good old-fashioned guilt trip. The guilt-tripper’s goal is to get what he wants, and often he does, but always at the expense of authenticity. People may give in to the guilt-tripper’s demands, but the wheels of rebellion are set in motion, and the ultimate destination is the tunnel of chaos.

 

MORE NOT-SO-NOBLE CHARACTERS

     Ivan the Intimidator gets real upset when his feelings get hurt. He’s not content just to talk about it; he wants to “blow somebody away.” He intimidates other people into submission. Ivan spends half his life in the tunnel and doesn’t even know it,

     When Steve the Stonewaller gets hurt, he pouts, slams doors, clumps around with his head down, and groans instead of breathes. Sooner or later people notice the commotion and express concern. “Hey Steve, do we have a problem? Is there something you want to talk about?” Steve says, “We don’t have a problem. And if we do, I don’t want to talk about it.” How’s that for truth-telling?

     Steve’s sister, Sarah, plays the same game from a slightly different position. “Is something wrong, Sarah?” ”No,” she whimpers. “Are you sure?” She nods an unconvincing “yes.” You walk away to the sound of her woeful sighs.

 

GUIDELINES FOR TRUTH-TELLING

     Recently my daughter and I were walking in the country and I said, “Honey, I want to know everything that’s going on in that little mind of yours. If you have a problem with me about anything, I want you to tell me. If you have some hard questions to ask me, ask them.” And she did. We talked about everything under the sun---things that were easy to talk about, and things that were difficult. But during that precious hour, community blossomed. Love grew. Our relationship was cemented,

     Authentic relationships provide some of the greatest joys of life, but we’ll never experience them if we play the games just discussed. We need to deal openly with the wedges that occasionally get stuck in even the best relationships.

     Here are some practical suggestions for negotiating the tunnel so we can move into true community.

     First, identify the real obstacle. Before you blurt out an unedited, “Hey, Buddy, I’ve got a problem with you,” take time to determine the real issue. Is it hurt feelings? Is it a history of dishonesty? Do you feel neglected? Misunderstood? Identify it, then talk to the Lord about it. Sort it out. Some people find it helpful to organize their thoughts on paper.

     Second, arrange to meet the person face-to-face as soon as possible. Jesus tells us that if we have a problem in a relationship we should meet with that person in private (Matthew 18:15). Paul says we should do it as soon as possible. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). The longer we stay in pseudo-community, the more the relationship deteriorates.

     Third, when you meet, affirm the relationship before you open up the agenda. If you’re meeting with your spouse, say, “Look, honey, I love you and I value our relationship. I want our marriage to be all it can be, and I believe it has the potential to be mutually satisfying in every way. But I need to talk to you about a few things that are standing in the way.”

     If you’re meeting with an employer, say, “Sir, I value this job, and I want to have a good working relationship with you. I can’t, though, until I deal with some frustrations I feel. Would you please listen to me so we can clear up some misunderstandings?”

     Fourth, make observations rather than accusations. Human beings tend to do what animals do when they’re attacked. They strike back. Don’t put up your dukes and start throwing punches. Say, “Look, I’m feeling hurt by some things you did. You probably didn’t intend to hurt me, but that’s what I feel. Can we talk about it?” Or “I’m sensing a change in our relationship. I don’t feel as comfortable with you anymore. I’d like your input.” That opens the way for dialogue that can lead to true community.

     A man in thy church gave me permission to quote the following letter.

     Dear Bill:

     My company’s vice president is in the habit of riding roughshod over me and I’ve developed the habit of swallowing my feelings about it. Well, today my boss did it again. This time I gave my reaction to the Lord, and the Lord produced flashbacks of some of your recent messages on truth-telling.

     I decided not to submerge my anger any longer. I walked into my boss’s office, trusting the Lord for the right words to say. The resulting conversation was refreshingly honest---and a breakthrough for me and my employer. How thankful I am for God’s plan of telling the truth.

 

     That man said, “Enough is enough. I’ve had it with pseudo-community.” He walked into the tunnel trusting God, played no games, and came out the other side on the path to a relational authenticity.

 

AN HONEST LOOK

     Just for a moment, think of the key people in your life: spouse, children, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Ask yourself two questions about your relationship with them. Are you telling the truth to these people? Or are you in pseudo-community, where the basic value is peace-keeping at any cost?

     Chances are, some or many of those relationships are pseudo-relationships. They’re blocked by grievances or concerns you’re afraid to talk about because you know a confrontation will force you into the tunnel of chaos.

     If that’s true, please remember this: The counterfeit peace of inauthentic relationships always deteriorates into relational death. Therefore, you must pursue truth-telling; you must risk the tunnel. Walk into it and wrestle with the truth. Use careful, honest forms of communication, then trust God to bring you out the other side. As unpleasant as it seems, entering this tunnel is the first major step toward relational authenticity.

 

THE FLIP SIDE

     There is, of course, a flip side to truth-telling. It’s called truth-hearing.

     What goes through your mind when someone to whom you’ve posed a question says, “Well, do you want the truth, or should I lie and make you feel good?” Doesn’t a part of you want to scream, “I’ll take the lie! Make me feel good”

    Part of me says that, but another part says, “No, I better not do that. I need to hear the truth.”

     Through my office window I can see our recently completed wedding chapel. I remember when we had the soil borings done prior to starting construction. The soil analyst said, “Do you want the truth about the soil under the chapel area, or should I lie and make you feel good?”

     Although we wanted to believe that all was well under that meticulously manicured lawn, we knew that if we hoped to build on a solid foundation, we had to know the truth. As it turned out, his truthful words meant added inconvenience and expense. But as I look at that beautiful chapel and anticipate years of use, I’m glad we requested, received, and responded to the truth.

     Some time ago my mother saw her doctor. In her typical, easygoing fashion she asked, “So, how am I doing?’ He said, “Do you want the truth, or should I lie and make you feel good?“ She passed on the “feel good’ option and asked for the truth. He said she had cancer and needed major surgery immediately. So she gathered the family around her, had the surgery, and now, several years later, has a clean bill of health. We’re all very glad she requested, received, and responded to the truth.

     When you’re constructing a building or making medical decisions, it pays to hear and respond to the truth---even if the short-term effect is pain, discomfort, expense, heartache, or chaos. The same is true when you’re building relationships. It pays to hear and respond to the truthful words of others---even if they’re hard words that upset apple carts, rock boats, and cut to the core. A relationship built on anything less than truth is destined for disaster.

     We need to hear the hard words of truth. But how can we overcome our natural, human instinct to reject them?

 

SELF-DEFENSE

     During a baseball game I saw a batter hit a fast ball straight back at the pitcher. In the split second the ball was in the air, the pitcher reflexively lifted his glove and caught the sizzling line drive. The commentator said, “The pitcher caught the ball in self-defense.” He wasn’t going after the ball; he simply responded to protect himself from an oncoming missile.

     Most of us tend to respond reflexively to the hard-to-hear, truthful words that from time to time fly at us. Almost before they’re uttered, we call out our self-protective weapons of denial, retaliation, and rationalization.

     “Bill, I’d like to talk to you about something.” The second I sense that harsh words might be coming, I activate my denial weapons. “He’s got the wrong guy. Whatever he thinks I did, I didn’t do. I couldn’t possibly do anything to offend him.”

    Then I fire up the retaliation machine. “If he points the finger at me, he’ll be in big trouble. He hasn’t lived a perfect life, either, you know. If he starts dragging out my dirty laundry, I’ll dump his clothes basket all over the neighborhood. He’ll be sorry he tangled with me!”

     Finally, my deluxe rationalizer kicks in. I don’t even know what the issue is yet, but my rationalizer says, “There are two-hundred-fifty ax murderers loose on the street, and you’re coming after me for some petty misdemeanor?” It’s so easy for the issue to become overshadowed by our reflexive, immature need to protect ourselves from the hard truth.

     Too often truth-telling sessions degenerate into shouting matches, pouting contests, and power plays. Why? Because we can’t stand to say these words: “You’re right. I’m sorry.” We would rather have people lie and make us feel good than tell us truths that make us uncomfortable.

 

GUIDELINES FOR TRUTH-HEARING

     James 1:19—20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” An appropriate paraphrase might be: “Be quick to hear the hard words that people bring to you. Then be slow to react. Don’t rush into denial, retaliation, and rationalization”

            Our challenge is to convert the energy once used by our self- defense machines into listening power, vulnerability power, contemplation power. We need to say to ourselves, “Before I fire up the machines, I’m going to quiet myself and listen. I’m going be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. I’m going to search for the truth in what this person is saying, and learn from it.”

     My goal is to become such a truth-lover that I willingly listen to even the hardest words. I want to deal more with issues and truth than with ego and fragile feelings. That doesn’t mean I have to bow to every word of criticism that comes my way. It does mean, however, that if people bring me words that are true, I owe it to them---I owe it to me---to listen.

     Let me give you a challenge. Go to someone you know well and trust---a spouse, parent, child, friend, or fellow worker---and say, “If you knew I wouldn’t get defensive and angry, what hard truth would you like to tell me? Is there something you’ve been wanting to say to me, but haven’t dared to because you were afraid of my reaction? Well, now’s your chance.”

     Then sit back and listen. Don’t say anything. Don’t shake your head in disbelief. Don’t pound your fist on the table. Just let the words sink in and do a work in your heart. I know from experience what a valuable exercise this can be. More than once a friend’s hard words have revealed inconsistencies and sins I was unaware of. I’m a better man for every time I took such words to heart.

 

BUT WHAT IF

     I’ve given several sermons about truth-telling, and every time I’ve been asked the following question: “What do you do when you’re in a relationship with someone who simply will not engage in truth-telling? What if he or she absolutely refuses to hear hard words?” This is a particularly sticky issue when it pertains to marriage.

     Here’s my response. First, make sure you are really speaking the truth in love. Be careful to follow the guidelines given earlier: Identify the issue, meet privately as soon as possible, affirm the relationship, and make observations rather than accusations. Truth-telling sessions are sabotaged by people who are long on truth and short on love.

     Second, make sure you have received and responded to the issues the other person has communicated to you. Do a real “gut-check” on this one. Did you listen and seek the truth in the other person’s concerns? Or did you get angry? Did you slip into denial, retaliation, or rationalization? You can’t ask more from another person than you’re willing to do yourself

     Third, realize that sometimes deception runs so deep in us that it necessitates repeated sessions on telling the truth. Years ago I had a falling out with a friend, and because neither of us were as committed to giving and receiving truth as we are now, we remained unreconciled for five years. When we finally attempted to reconcile, it required over a year of agonizing, monthly meetings. At times it seemed hopeless, but we stuck with the process, and it worked. Today we enjoy a close friendship built on love and trust.

     What’s the message here? Be patient. Trust the process. And don’t be surprised if God does graduate-level character transformation in you as you devote yourself to relational healing.

 

EXCEPTIONAL CASES

     I would like to end this chapter here, but integrity demands I add one more point. Sometimes deception runs so deep in a relationship that temporary suspension of the relationship may be necessary. This is particularly true when there is substance abuse (drugs or alcohol), emotional or physical abuse, immorality, financial deception, or spiritual hypocrisy. If long-term, consistent truth-telling fails to result in relational healing, there may be no acceptable alternative.

     A young woman in my church had suffered extreme child abuse at the hands of her parents. Her counselor encouraged her to talk with her parents about it to open the way for personal healing and relational authenticity. Repeatedly her parents denied any wrongdoing, and accused her of trying to destroy their lives and reputation. Their deception so traumatized her and thwarted her healing process that her counselor recommended a temporary suspension of all attempts to relate to them.

     Occasionally our church counselors recommend that spouses of alcoholics temporarily suspend their relationship with their husband or wife. Deception is often so ingrained in alcoholics’ thought processes that honest communication is absolutely impossible. Only detoxification can free them to relate authentically. It often takes the dramatic suspension of a significant relationship to force them to get the help they need.

     If you’re trapped in a relationship so steeped in deception that honest communication seems impossible, seek the counsel of godly people. With their help, determine the course of action that will best serve both you and the other person. If temporary suspension of the relationship is necessary, pray that God will use it to shatter the deception and open the way for future reconciliation.

 

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

     My life is filled with people. I spend time with people at church, I meet with people when I travel, I work out with people at the YMCA, I socialize with people in the community, and I live with people in my home. It’s probably the same for you.

     So what does that say about relationships? That they ought to be one of our primary concerns. The shape of our relationships determine, in large degree, the shape of our lives. That’s why learning to give and receive hard words is so important.

     I know it’s uncomfortable. I know the truth can be threatening. I know the tunnel to authenticity is frightening. But there’s no other way.

     It’s hard words or hidden hostilities. It’s revealed pain or buried resentment. It’s tough questions or unspoken doubts.

     It’s truth ... or the consequences. (51-65)

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