speaking the truth in love


I was traveling on business to a city cross-country.  So I called a friend to ask if I could stay with him while there.

“No,” he said, in a matter-of-fact but friendly way.

I didn’t know what to do.  He wasn’t supposed to say that.  He should’ve said either “yes” (whether he meant it or not) or “let me check and see if that will work.”  But he wasn’t supposed to tell me the truth, not flat out like that.  Even if he knew it wouldn’t work, or even if he knew that he just didn’t want me there, he was supposed to feign a struggle before he said no.

His friendly tone made things even more confusing for me.  If he’d been snippy I would have chalked it up to a bad day or even “he’s no good.”  But when he was friendly, it was like he believed I was a big boy and could handle my own disappointment and still be friends.  Hmmm…

“No,” he said.  Right away like that, warm and firm.  It threw me.  I was quiet on the phone.

He went on to give a short, believable explanation about why he said no, then asked me about myself.  We talked for several minutes; he was interested and glad I called.  Then we hung up and I began to make a different plan for my trip.

I’ve thought about that phone call many times since.  My friend taught me something profound, yet so basic.  He taught me that it is possible to tell the truth in a matter of fact, but friendly way.  And more importantly, when you do, you build trust.  I now knew that my friend would tell me the truth.  If he could say “no,” strong and friendly, then when he said “yes,” I would know that he really meant it.

Speaking the truth in love builds trust.  It shows others that you care about what’s real and that you really care:

  • Everyone is better off when you are being real. You aren’t guessing about motives, you aren’t playing games.
  • When you are being real, you are being loving. You are believing the other is strong enough to handle disappointment and yet stay in relationship.  You are trusting the other with your real self.

Speaking the truth in love is a basic skill for a healthy life.  You can’t be healthy when manipulating truth.  You can’t be healthy when faking love.  You can’t build trust when you don’t say what you mean.  You can’t build trust when you don’t mean what you say.  Your relationships won’t be real.  Your life won’t be real.

So let’s get healthy, let’s get real: Speak the Truth in Love.



Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.


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