Yes, What You Said Is True, but Did It Sound Loving and Respectful?

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People hear your words of truth, but they feel your words of kindness. They feel your love and respect. Is this why God commands a husband and wife to show love and respect in their marriage (Ephesians 5:33)?

It is not enough to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15). If spoken unkindly, the truth can hammer a person in a cruel way that leaves them emotionally shattered. Truth must be spoken in loving and respectful ways. Even international treaties among different governments must convey the desire to have the other country's interest in mind.

Kindness is not about agreeing with the other’s position but about showing that one understands it and may even have a degree of empathy toward it. In the best of editorial writing, the editor proves most persuasive when representing the opposition’s position even better than the opposition represents themselves. But then the writer caringly and respectfully dismantles each point as less acceptable.

When in conflict with someone, including and especially our spouses, we need to ask ourselves: How can I differ with this person without them feeling unloved and disrespected? How can I speak what is true and necessary without the other feeling I am being unkind?

For certain, when others believe that we hate them and hold them in contempt, they will not hear what we have to say to them about what is true. Our hostility and disdain closes off their spirit. That is why during a conflict, I approach them as an ally, not an enemy; a friend, not a foe. I will assume they have goodwill and are trustworthy until they have shown me that they are untrustworthy and lack goodwill.

We should always try to remain positive and affirming while addressing the concerns on the table, wording ourselves in ways that sound like this:

  • "Though we differ on a few issues, we agree on numerous concerns. I am optimistic that we can come together where we differ."

  • "I do value your heart and talents and am grateful for your efforts, but I think we need to head a different direction."

  • "I failed to clearly communicate my expectations, which put you in a position to guess what to do. That's my bad. Would you give me another chance to better explain what I want so we can move forward on this again?"

  • "Though you were able to accomplish only four of the eight items on the list, you still were able to strongly prove your ability to do these tasks. You can do these things though you have lacked confidence in the past."

  • "Without question you and I have the same goals here, but I wish to approach the situation from different angles. I respect your perspective."

Before writing or speaking we need to ask: Will this sound loving and respectful or hostile and contemptuous? When I really need and want the other to hear what I have to say, I must sound like a kind person.

Additionally, an excellent question to ask is: Am I addressing the issue or attacking the person? If they feel attacked as a person, they will close off. Another excellent question to ask is: Will the way I communicate this build trust or undermine trust?

How are you communicating? Truth without love and respect is like surgery without anesthesia.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe a time when, though you were hearing words of truth you felt words of unkindness. Did that approach help or hurt the situation?

  2. Has there ever been a time when someone with a differing opinion still made you feel loved and respected while discussing the conflict with you? How did that approach help resolve the conflict?

  3. It should be easy to always approach our spouse as an ally, not an enemy, in conflict, yet that is not always the path we choose. Why do we oftentimes look past their goodwill when in conflict? Why do we treat them as an enemy?

  4. Emerson said a good question to always ask yourself is, am I addressing the issue or attacking the person? How will always keeping this in mind at the beginning of a conflict help you approach the issue differently than perhaps you usually do?