But getting a truthful look at yourself is essential to seeing and knowing what needs to change, what needs improvement, what needs a tune-up, and what requires a complete overhaul. And while others may have an unmitigated ability to examine themselves critically and with utter honesty, I find I am fond of subconsciously (and sometimes not-so-subconsciously) convincing myself that I’ve got my stuff together. In other words, I sometimes need other people to tell me when I’m full of crap.
When you have a friend who possesses a blatant, unapologetically no-holds-barred variety of honesty, all I can say is, watch out and in the same breath, thank God! Honesty is a quality that many value but in my own experience, few exercise to its full potential (I include myself in this) because not only is there difficulty for the recipient, but it also requires a measure of risk for the one who speaks it. It is a delicate matter to speak the truth with tact and in love to another child of God. It is much easier to let things slide, kick your feet up and allow the friendship to coast, the ills of another remaining unidentified and unchallenged.
I once heard a pastor say, you are contributing to or contaminating your relationships one hundred percent of the time. The statement struck me as odd, but the more I allowed it to roll around my brain, the more I grasped its truth. While I may not be actively contaminating a relationship with my words or behavior, I am contaminating it if I contribute nothing toward it. If I do nothing to sustain its life, I am ensuring its death.
So I am thankful for the friend who is helping me learn this these days, who tells me the truth even when it might be painful to hear, and encourages me to reciprocate. As uncomfortable as these conversations might be at times, they are drawing me into the fullness of myself. It is helping me to identify those parts of me that are all too human and decidedly un-Christlike. Knowing this, I can choose to surrender them at the foot of the cross so Christ can give me the new self He has created for me, the self created in the “righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24).
This is part of how we grow and live in love in the Body of Christ. This is how we attain maturity in Christ’s Body. To avoid it is to become careless and callous; to avoid it is to contaminate it and by extension, ourselves.
I think St. Paul says it best:
… if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
Ephesians 4:21-25 (NASB)
We are members of one another, friends. Grace and peace be with you.