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The myth of "Speaking the Truth in Love"

Updated on February 17, 2014

A better understanding for what people mean when they "speak the truth in love"


The use of Scripture

Many times people say they are “speaking the truth in love,” and that saying is really starting to bother me.Typically when someone says they are going to “speak the truth in love” they are about to attack someone with different beliefs, morals, or lifestyles. The worst part of all of this, people who "speak the truth in love" feel this gives them free reign to say whatever they want, no matter how hateful or upsetting it is.
Ephesians 4:10-16 (although 4:15 is the one being quoted as "speaking the truth in love") tells us that the point of "speaking the truth in love" is to build up the Body of Christ, to help people have a strong foundation and support one another. How does attacking another person serve this end? I am a big fan of analogies, and Ephesians is all about the Body of Christ being one and united. So if someone "speaks the truth in love", it is very similar to the hand telling the foot it is going to be eternally punished because it does not have a thumb to grab. Or it is like the ear making fun of the eye because it cannot hear the words. We seem to have lost the point of this one verse in the Bible, and I believe it is because too many people have grabbed onto this verse without looking at what the Bible is actually talking about. The Bible is about how to love people, and showing Christ’s love to others.

Speak the truth WITH Love

I think we need to change one of the words. Let us try something very different, let us speak the truth WITH love and see what happens.
Here is the difference as I see it. When you fall, would you rather have someone tell you what you did wrong, or help you up? When you are hungry, would you rather have someone tell you to get a job, or that the reason you are hungry is because you do not live your life just like they do? OR would you rather someone take you out to a meal and help you find a way to help you continue getting food on a regular basis. This is the difference I see between speaking the truth IN LOVE and speaking the truth WITH LOVE. If you disagree with someone, or if you think your way is right or better, then say something nice about the other person. Focus on what the person is doing right or help them in a kind and considerate way. Allow them to see what love is, not just hear scripture about how they are going to hell in a hand basket or how God wants them to be punished (my opinions on this thinking would be a whole other soapbox). Allow a moment of reflection of their lives before you "speak the truth in love." I wonder how many times people are trying their best and just need a little boost now and then.

What Love really is

We are not meant to be the same. If we read the Ephesians passage fully we are supposed to understand that we are created unique and thus meant to be different. We were never meant to see the world the same way. If we constantly focus on what people do better than us or just different from us we are going to be spending a lot of time worrying and fretting. God does not want us to judge others, and that seems to be a big aspect of the Bible that gets ignored when people "speak the truth in love". For some reason, these people typically feel like they know the Bible better than everyone else, and so they are going to help us understand the simple truth, "They are right, we are wrong, and we are going to Hell because of it."
It is sad that we cannot stay focused on what Love is supposed to be about. Going to the 1 Corianthians 13, we find all kinds of definitions for Love-(NIV from the internet) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Do not judge, let God judge others.


Speaking the Truth in Love

How do you feel when someone uses the phrase "Speaking the Truth in Love"?

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What to do when someone "speaks the truth" to you

Funny, none of that says Love is going to make you feel pathetic and evil, hated or reviled. It basically says if you do not feel better after someone offers you Love, then it wasn't really Love. So, if someone tells you they are going to "speak the truth in love", I invite you to simply say "no thanks" and walk away...
Or maybe If you hear someone“speak the truth in love”, listen and acknowledge their opinions and their beliefs. But then try something else and watch what happens. Explain your beliefs in a loving and caring way. Explain to them why you are doing what you are doing. Show them what you call love with actions and compassion. The old saying is true, “Actions DO speak louder than words.” If you are going to show someone that you care about them enough to help, then show them, not tell them. Then just watch and see what happens to the person who “speaks the truth in love”. I have a feeling they will become suddenly quiet.


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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for this hub Rev.Akins. Why do so many Christians forget the part about not judging others? Many seem to find that so hard and use the term "Speaking the truth in love" to do exactly that, only they use those words to hide behind because they are in the Bible. I agree "speaking the truth with love" changes it completely, and I agree that actions speak louder than words and we should make sure we practice what we preach. You wrote this message very clearly and it is easy to understand. I enjoyed the read and hope many more do the same. Voted up.

    • Rev. Akins profile image

      Rev. Akins 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      I am glad we could find each other, Pamela99. Looking forward to reading your hubs and learning from them. Thanks for the comment and the compliments!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

      You made your point with an excellent explantion of what Christian love is and what it is not. I immediately feel myself getting defensive if someone says that phrase to me. This is an awesome hub and I hope many people read it so they have a better understanding of how a Christian should act.

      I have not seen you on Hubpages before, but I am glad you made a comment on my hub as I will become a fan. I like your writing very much.

    • Rev. Akins profile image

      Rev. Akins 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks for the kind words lambservant. I admit one of the "excuses" I have used to not write hubs is because I don't think anything I have to say is worth listening to. Again thank you for the gracious comment.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Thanks for putting this verse into context. Speaking the truth WITH LOVE - this should be our default position. Sad that often isn't. This was a powerful and much needed word to us.

    • Rev. Akins profile image

      Rev. Akins 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks Ericdierker for the comment, I am trying to get back into writing Hubs like this.

      Nell Rose, I understand the frustration with dealing with people who feel they are superior for whatever reason. It is difficult to help them understand that it is okay for us all to be different, and that doesn't mean either person has to be wrong. Thanks for the comment!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I hate people who say that, or maybe not in those words, but for someone to in a sense smile but be big headed by saying 'I think you should do this' etc, I would tell to go to well, you know! lol! people should learn that we are all different. I notice that people who have it all are always the smug ones, whether they hide behind religion or not, and I hate smug people! love is something given freely, and so is helping people, great post, Rev!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you for this wonderful insight. This is very good stuff to learn.