Jesus breathes, speaks, and embodies the great truth of God’s love, redemption, and sanctification for all people. Jesus is the foundation and the context for everything we say and do as Christians. This means that we are often called to go beyond our own version of the truth and choose him as our yardstick or measure of what is important and what is ‘real’ or ‘fake.’ For example:
Early in Therese’s third pregnancy, she was sick and exhausted, and her mother was seriously ill. John knew he had to do something. He tried helping around the house, but that didn’t seem to matter; neither did talking things out. He thought of suggesting a call to the doctor, but she had just seen him.
What to do? Then John realized that Therese would experience peace only by talking to Jesus. So each day when he got home from work, he asked her, “Did you have a chance to pray yet?” The usual answer was, “No, and I don’t want to!” But he was convinced that God could help her, so every day he would ask again. About ten days into his campaign, when he began to ask, she cut him off and ran into the bathroom. It would be easier to face God than to face John!
Therese sat on the edge of the tub and cried. She told God about all the diapers, the disturbing visits to Mom, the children’s short naps, the nausea. “Right now, I don’t need one more obligation. I don’t need to pray. I don’t want to! I just need to relax. I need to have some fun in my life! Sorry, God, but you’re not much fun to talk to.”
Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes so that she could listen to God’s voice. “Well, Therese, right now you are not much fun either!” That was the breakthrough she needed. God’s challenge and sense of humor would keep her going for the next seven months, during which her mother would pass away.
Here are guidelines for sharing the truth in love, as John tried to do.
- Speak with gentleness and confidence in God’s love for the person whom you address. This does not mean that difficult feelings won’t emerge. It does means that your goal is another’s wholeness. You are not adversaries but brothers and sisters in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Try presenting the truth through a question. “Have you ever thought of . . . ?” “What would happen if . . . ?” “What have you tried so far?” “What are you options when . . . ?” Then listen carefully for the other’s point of view and needs.
- Report just your own observations about another’s behavior using “I” statements: “I noticed that you . . . ” or “I felt . . . when you . . . ” And do so in private. Remember the way Jesus spoke to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. It takes humility to approach another this way, especially if you have been trained to assign blame for hurt.
- Admit that you may not be the right person to share what needs to be said in a serious situation. If that is the case, then turn to someone who may be able to help you sort out your options in the relationship. This is especially true when the behavior of a public person is causing a stressful and angry response in you.
- Consider the quality of your relationship and the importance of the matter at hand. Is this person a parent? A spouse? A friend? An employee? Ask if the matter is serious enough for a challenge. We are called to honesty in all things unless the role we have in a relationship, makes it inappropriate to speak.
- Try making an agreement about challenging behavior. For example, Mark and Barbara were in the habit of criticizing the Sunday sermon after Mass on the way to the coffee shop. Mark realized how inappropriate and unkind this was. So he asked Barbara, “Next time I start complaining, would you please say, ‘Mark, you told me you didn’t want to do this anymore.’”
- Be aware of the prevalence of relativism in our culture. It can erode our ability to share objective truth. Some believe that any position or “truth” is as good as any another “truth.” Some believe that ‘my truth’ is real and yours is fake.”Excerpted from Mending Broken Relationships. by the Bouchers