For someone who believes that Jesus is the Truth, I have sure spent a lot of my life trying to save people from the truth. Even from my childhood, I have tried to protect others from what I thought would hurt them, namely the truth about how I felt or the truth of their situations. I have a Ph.D. in tiptoeing around uncomfortable issues and if I am honest with myself, it wasn’t just to protect them, but myself from the horrors of personal conflict.
Numerous reasons exist as to why I have struggled with this particular issue. Firstly, I am sensitive. You know the empath on Star Trek? The one with the long brown hair that could feel other people’s pain? That’s me. I often pick up on people’s pain. And I know a lot of people that can easily tap into the emotions of others. But here are two things about that sensitivity and empathy that are deceptive and unhealthy.
- We empaths don’t really tap into other people’s emotions purely. They get run through our own filters. And if we aren’t careful, we over-empathize. Another name for this is merging. A whole other name for this is poor boundaries. I often over-identified with other people
who suffered. Their suffering became mine and I needed to try to fix it. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Not yours, either.
- The other truth about empaths is that our burden-bearing can lead to bondage. Jesus died on the cross, became my sin and everyone else’s so that our yoke is easy and our burden light. If bearing another’s burden is too heavy, it is because you have set yourself as their savior. The point of empathizing or burden bearing is to take the burden off their shoulders and put it on the cross.
So how to tell the truth in love? Understanding my codependent tendencies didn’t make communicating uncomfortable truths any easier. Why? Because what is actually true in any given situation is probably not easy to discern, nor does it come without a cost. There you have it. Truth is the most expensive commodity on the planet. Probably because it is pretty rare.
So in the process of coming out of codependency and merging and people-pleasing; all the sins that make one a nice and likable person, I have learned a few difficult things.
- Telling the truth involves suffering. If you truly care about another, then when you have to tell them something difficult, it shouldn’t be easy. Emotional maturity dictates that you be aware of the effect you have on others. If you need to communicate something painful to someone, it will cost you. For instance, telling your mate that you are deeply concerned about a certain behavior will never be easy. Criticism hurts, especially when true. Loving someone means that you are aware that your words, no matter how loving, no matter how true or justified, can wound.
- Not telling the truth will hurt you and them far more in the end. So many relationships get derailed by the resentment that wells up after years of avoiding the truth. One particular marriage counselor I read says Complain often. Complain early. I don’t know about you, but I thought I was being a good Christian wife by grinning and bearing it. Turns out I just get ugly inside if I don’t trust my feelings enough to express them. Turns out I undermine the emotional intimacy in our relationship if I don’t trust my husband to tell him the things that bug me.
And then there is a whole other side of truth that is the hardest to tell, especially in love. I used to be quite accomplished in denial. I denied anything was wrong to the point that I lost my health. If I don’t have the guts to tell myself the truth, I will never pull it together enough to tell it to others. So why do humans struggle with telling themselves the truth about their situation?
- If you admit it, you might have to take responsibility for it. Yikes! There is a good reason why addicts have to first admit they have a problem. If you stop pretending you don’t have a problem, discomfort moves in pretty quickly. The truth is rarely flattering. But in the Bible, confession is linked to healing. We confess to one another for the healing of our bodies. If we admit it, we know we may have to give it up. And we don’t really wanna.
- We don’t speak the truth in love to ourselves. Others, yes. To ourselves, we sound like emotionally and verbally abusive jerks. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend or a family member, you shouldn’t say it to yourself. Ever.
- We are terrified to see our realities for what they are. Humans are fascinating that way. They can spend literally years building fantasy castles in the air in order to avoid the pain of their reality. Ever play If I won the lottery? You can kill a good half hour or more pretending that having several hundred million dollars would solve your problems. And you wouldn’t be one of those stupid lottery winners who end up in
bankruptcy. And you would fix a lot of the problems in your family. You would do it right.
The only problem is that in reality, overspending or perhaps a lack of opportunity where you are keeps you in debt. Or even circumstances like illness outside your control have plunged you into serious lack. Pretending to have money for a blissful half hour just avoids the issue. But I know someone who can help.
Here is the good news. Truth is more than just a concept. Truth is a person, a person who loved you so much He died for you. I heard a friend at church say two truly profound things recently. He said the Lord told him He would have died on the cross if no one believed. We often hear that God would have offered Himself for one individual’s salvation. But the Truth gave Himself up on the cross without any guarantee that anyone would accept His gift.
The other thing he mentioned that I thought was profound was that when confessing his sin before the Lord in order to ‘clear the books’ so to speak, God kept telling him that He didn’t remember. He would say to the Lord, please forgive me for this and that and God would say, “I don’t remember you doing that”. Finally, he heard what God was trying to say and it still blows me away.
You see, I remember my sin. I bet you do too. But the truth, the Truth is that God, our Father, does not. The Truth sets us free, not just from sin, but from ourselves, others, our circumstances, and our enemies. I don’t have to protect anyone from the truth. In fact, I need to introduce them to the Truth. The Truth will save you from debt, from addiction, from loneliness, and abuse.
And before I tell anyone the truth I think they should hear, I run it by Jesus. He happens to be Love too. Only through Him can I tell the Truth in Love.
In all honesty, some people are extra difficult. Here are some resources I have used in professional and personal settings. Most people know Boundaries but Safe People was a God-send to me, the empath.