Friday, October 14, 2005


"Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
(Proverbs 3:3)

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”
(Proverbs 23:23)

We need Truth-Tellers because our capacity to live in denial is astounding. Self-deception, writes Neil Plantinga, is a mysterious process where we pull the wool over our own eyes.

We deny, suppress, or minimize what we know to be true. We assert, adorn, and elevate what we know to be false. We prettify ugly realities and sell ourselves the prettified versions. Thus a liar might transform “I tell a lot of lies to shore up my pride” to “Occasionally, I finesse the truth in order to spare other people’s feelings.”[i]

Lying seems to be a way of life for many people. We lie at the drop of a hat. The book The Day America Told the Truth says that 91 percent of those surveyed lie routinely about matters they consider trivial, and 36 percent lie about important matters; 86 percent lie regularly to parents, 75 percent to friends, 73 percent to siblings, and 69 percent to spouses.[ii]

As reported in USA Today, Jerald Jellison said, "Each of us fibs at least 50 times a day." He explained that we lie about our age, our income, or our accomplishments. And we use lies to escape embarrassment. A common reason for "little white lies," we're told, is to protect someone else's feelings. Yet in so doing, we are really protecting ourselves. According to Jellison, here are some of our most commonly used fibs: "I wasn't feeling well." "I didn't want to hurt your feelings." "The check is in the mail." " I was just kidding." "I was only trying to help."

“A whole field in social psychology,” writes John Ortberg. “The study of what is called ‘cognitive dissonance’ – is based on our nearly endless ability to justify what we do or say so that it is consistent with our self-concept.” He continues,

We are all like the man on a diet who drove past the bakery and said he would only stop for doughnuts if there was an available parking space in front of it, clearly indicating that it was God’s will that he should eat a doughnut. Sure enough, his sixth time around the block, a parking space opened up.

Many of us have never invited someone else to be a Truth-Teller in our lives for the same reason we don’t get on a scale: We are afraid of what we might find out. What if the truth about me is too painful for me to bear? When I think about our longing for and fear of truth, I am reminded of two statements. One of them comes from actor Jack Nicholson in a film called A Few Good Men. Tom Cruise plays a lawyer cross-examining Nicholson’s character. Cruise pleads, “All I want is the truth.” To which Nicholson replies in his inimitable snarl, “You can’t handle the truth.”

Jesus had a fundamentally different take on the subject. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[iii]

You have to decide whom to believe: Jesus or Jack Nicholson.

Dietrick Bonhoeffer’s words in this regard are simply too good not to be quoted in full.

One who because of sensitivity and vanity rejects the serious words of another Christian cannot speak the truth in humility to others. Such a person is afraid of being rejected and feeling hurt by another’s words. Sensitive, irritable people will always become flatterers, and very soon they will come to despise and slander other Christians in their community… when another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked.[iv]

We need Truth-Tellers who will help us grow in our acceptance of reality. But we also need them because they serve as anchors; they help hold us accountable to the commitments we make.

People need to make decisions about their spiritual life. William Paulson writes, “it is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard way.”[v]

There is a big difference between deciding and preferring. For instance, have you ever tried journaling? Have you ever felt guilty that you didn’t fill it out often enough? (My own advice is to keep two journals; if you write one day and then there’s a gap of months or years before the next entry, just write, See other journal.)

People need to make decisions:

_What are my commitments about prayer?
_ What are my commitments about Scripture?
­_ What are my commitments about stewardship?
_ What are my commitments about speaking the truth in love?

We all need to make decisions about what values we want to honor, what spiritual practices we need to engage in, what kind of friends and neighbors and sons and daughters and husbands and wives we will be. But the decisions alone are not enough. We need to go public with them. We need accountability. We also need someone who will ask us, “How’s it going? Is your way of life working? Do some things need to change? What are you struggling with in regard to sin or temptation?

We need others to help us live up to our best intentions and deepest values. Just as mountaineers rope together for a climb and athletes work out with trainers and coaches, so it is in every area of life. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are carefully structured around this one constant truth. They know that for people to think that they can live up to their best intentions on their own is a recipe for disaster. These groups are made up of people who have faced up to the fact that they’re not normal and are committed to help one another live one day at a time. David Watson says, “Anything that is subject to human limitation or error requires the collegial presence of another person to ensure responsibility. It is a fact of life.”[vi]

Watson writes that in the movement associated with John Wesley, people met together in little communities to help hold each other accountable for their deepest values and most important decisions. Wesley had a beautiful phrase for this; he called it “watching over one another in love.”[vii]

Before someone entered into this community, they would be asked a series of questions to see if they were serious about living in mutual accountability.

· Does any sin, inward or outward, have dominion over you?
· Do you desire to be told of your faults?
· Do you desire to be told of all your faults – and that plain and clear? (By this point, most of us are laughing at the idea of people putting up with such pointed questions.)
· Consider! Do you desire that we should tell you whatsoever we hear concerning you?
· Do you desire that in doing this we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
· Is it your desire and design to be on this and all other occasions entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart, without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?

Can you imagine people in your family or your circle of friends answering yes to such questions? In Wesley’s day they did – by the thousands. They did so simply because they knew they could never grow into the people they wanted to be without help.

Over time, however, the commitment to truth-telling got lost. Watson writes that when these small groups shifted their focus from mutual accountability to vague sharing, most of the power of these little communities was lost. Eventually they began to die out. People tend to drift away from truth-telling. As Scott Peck puts is,

A life of total dedication to truth also means a life of willingness to be personally challenged…but the tendency to avoid challenge is so omnipresent in human beings that it can properly be considered a characteristic of human nature.[viii]

q Have you ever solicited someone to be a Truth-Teller?

q Is there currently a Truth-Teller in your life? (if so, what does that look like?)

q Why are people (perhaps yourself) often apprehensive to opening up their lives to this type of thing?

q What were some of your responses as you were reading the list of questions John Wesley’s communities asked one another?

Prayer: Ask God to show you someone that could be a potential Truth-Teller in your life.

Act One: Commit to meeting with a Truth-Teller consistently.
Act Two: When you get together, in the midst of whatever else you do, intentionally ask four simple questions.:
1. How’s your relationship with God?
2. How’s your relationship with your spouse?
3. How’s your relationship with your vocation?
4. How’s your relationships with other people, especially the people you work with frequently and closely?

Tid-bits - Week Two …

When regard for truth has been broken down
or even slightly weakened,
all things will remain doubtful.

One never errs more safely than
when one errs by too much loving the truth.

No man has a good enough memory
to make a successful liar.

Abraham Lincoln

Those who think it's permissible to tell white lies soon become color-blind.
Austin O'Malley

Tid-bits Con’t…
A store manager hear his clerk tell a customer, "No, ma'am, we haven't had any for a while, and it doesn't look as if we'll be getting any soon."
Horrified, the manager came running over to the customer and said, "Of course we'll have some soon. We placed an order last week."
Then the manager drew the clerk aside. "Never," he snarled, "Never, never, never say we're out of anything--say we've got it on order and it's coming. Now, what was it she wanted?"
"Rain," said the clerk.[ix]

A manager was asked by his laziest employee for a recommendation for another job. The manager thought hard all night for something that would be honest without hurting the young man's chances. He finally wrote: "You will be lucky if you can get him to work for you."[x]

Tid-bits Con’t…
Driving through Texas, a New Yorker collided with a truck carrying a horse. A few months later he tried to collect damages for his injuries. "How can you now claim to have all these injuries?" asked the insurance company's lawyer. "According to the police report, at the time you said you were not hurt." "It's like this," said the New Yorker. "I was lying in the road in a lot of pain, and I heard someone say the horse had a broken leg. The next thing I know the sheriff pulled out his gun and shot the horse. Then he turned to me and said, "Are you okay?"

A lie travels around the world
while truth is putting on her boots.
Charles Spurgeon

[i] Neil Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, 105.
[ii] Daily Bread, August 28, 1992.
[iii] John 8:32.
[iv] Ibid. Dietrick Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 105, emphasis added.
[v] William Paulson: quoted in Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 1995, 137.
[vi] David Watson, Covenant Discipleship. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996, 17.
[vii] Ibid., 55-56.
[viii] M. Scot Peck, The Road Less Traveled. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978,52-53.
[ix] James Dent, in Charleston, W.VA. Gazette.
[x] Greg Wetmore, Reader’s Digest.

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