Christian Counselor Seattle
Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
Relationships hinge on truth and trust. Honesty is the best policy and is the basis for trust. If my words reflect my heart and my words are good, i.e. if my promises are kept, then I give others a reasonable basis on which they can safely share their hearts and make commitments with me.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Jesus described himself as the Truth. He is the One who embodies all that is true, good, and right – and whose word and perspective defines reality (John 14:6). By contrast, the bible describes the enemy of our souls as a liar, the one in whom is no truth, and who tempts us to believe that we don’t need God and can find life by going our own way apart from God (John 8:44). Jesus said that those who hold to his teaching know the truth – and that the truth will set them free from slavery to sin, self-rule, and self-justification (John 8:31-32).
A central theme throughout the Scriptures is the necessity of truth in our relationships – with both God and others. After he was exposed for concealing the truth about his sin and returned to God, David wrote that God desires truth in the inner person (Psalm 51:6). Paul affirms that when we speak the truth in love in spiritual community, then we grow up and together mature into the character of Jesus (Ephesians 4:15). New life and new community in Jesus is known by putting off falsehood and speaking truthfully to one another (Ephesians 4:25).
The Power of Honesty in Relationships
Truth-telling fosters in others the belief or assurance that I am not hiding, manipulating, or scheming in order to get my way at a cost to you. We create brokenness in our relationships when we do not do as we say, and when we don’t keep our promises. Broken trust in an intimate relationship is traumatic and creates uncertainty and instability. By contrast, speaking honesty and living our word enables a relationship to be stabilized and eventually healed and renewed. This article is the first part in a two-part series in which I consider the power of honesty in relationships.
Keeping Our Promises Strengthens Trust
The spoken word is powerful, especially the promise that is kept. In his book Us, Dan Tocchini observes that our promises bind us to the future. When we follow through on doing what we say we will do, we create the expectation that we can be trusted – and trust is essential for strengthening commitment. Broken promises create brokenness in relationships. They create the pain of betrayal – of violating the trust of another and of being traumatized by such a violation. Guilt and bitterness can result from betrayal, hindering the possibilities for intimacy and unity. The honesty involved in keeping our promises provides the foundation for greater oneness in a relationship. By not keeping our promises, we violate our personal integrity and undermine the possibilities for growth with others.
Answering honestly, even at a cost to oneself, invites relationship. But another way in which a lack of honesty can undermine our intimacy is through evasion. When we withhold the truth out of the fear of rejection or abandonment, we are more likely to continue to hide and to distance ourselves from others. Lying and withholding the truth is characteristic of those who are addicted to compulsive behaviors, substances, and experiences rather than being committed to dealing with their personal pain and needs. Moreover, the justification for lying is based on lies: That I am unworthy of love and unacceptable as I am, that I can’t depend on others, including God, to meet my needs, and that the truth leads to rejection and death.
Honesty Promotes Intimacy
Keeping it real and honestly revealing the depths of our hearts with those whom we love promotes mutuality and depth. Honestly sharing my feelings, thoughts, needs, and struggles invites another to reveal her/his heart. But when we hide ourselves from others, then the result is superficiality. Sometimes the lack of depth in sharing is intentional and arises out of the fear that we are unacceptable. Sometimes superficiality is the result of a lack of self-awareness, as we don’t share what we don’t know. Being honest with myself by acknowledging the truth about my past hurts, losses, weaknesses, and reactions precedes my honesty with others.
Telling the Truth is a Process
None of us is totally honest. We all need the forgiveness and the power to change that Jesus offers to all who are untruthful. Those who have Christ Jesus continue to struggle with fears, selfishness, and the illusion of independence – even as we are being transformed into new creatures. Even when we fail to keep our promises and our word, reconciliation is possible through the confession of our sin, repentance, and the reception of support and forgiveness. We can learn to love ourselves as God does, and to love others as we want to be loved. We can deal with the pain in our hearts and the addictions we have chosen. While the truth is painful to face, we can discover that it can also liberate us from the tyranny of falsehood, of avoiding pain, and of trusting only in ourselves. We can discover the camaraderie of shared wounds, experiences, losses, and struggles with sin in communities that breed honesty and demonstrate grace.
Christian Counseling as an Aid to Honest Relationships
Christian counseling can help foster personal integrity, align behavior with values, promote risk-taking, and increase self-awareness. It is centered on the hope that is found in Jesus, the Truth, who frees anyone who is willing to receive his grace and hold to his teaching.
“Rise n Fall,” courtesy of Riccardo Bonuccelli, FCC (CC BY 2.0); “The proud grandparents,” courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “A couple sit on London’s Trafalgar Square,” courtesy of Garry Knight, FCC (CC BY 2.0)
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