Sunday, June 28, 2009

Assuming Truth

"Are you calling me a liar?"  I looked at the person who spoke those words to me, and was stung--not by the words so much as by what I had just said.  It was something to the  effect of "I don't believe you."  By saying that, I was indeed calling that person a liar.  The starting point for me in that conversation was, "I'm suspicious of you; I'm distrustful of your words."  Essentially, I was receiving what was said with a, "prove to me that you are telling the truth" stance.

Yet many years ago, I learned a basic communication principle:  assume that the person with whom you are speaking is telling the truth.  This is the absolute foundation for conversation that leads to healthy openness and closer relationship.  Assume truth, not lie. Believe the best about the other person, not the worst.  

Many of us find this challenging, mostly because we ourselves don't always speak truth well.  Because of that, it is a pretty easy leap to think that others may also fudge the truth a bit or even skate over into outright lie.  More, everyone has at some time or another experienced the stab of betrayal by the apparent lies or mistruths coming from unfaithful friends, spouses, relatives, bosses, clergy, and loved ones.  

So, assuming that the other speaks the truth demands careful intentionality in conversation.  It means receiving statements from others as true even when we want to yell out, "Liar!"  

Why should we do this?  Think about it.  Who would you prefer to be around:  someone who believes what you say is true or someone who asks you to prove every statement?  Most of us really do prefer that others receive our words as truthful. Angood place to start is by treating the words of others as truthful.

But we all know it is just not that simple.  It is especially so when we work from a history of deception or sense of feeling tangled in a web of lies.  We don't want to be foolishly naive, yet approaching conversation with distrust rarely leads to a good outcome.  

Here are a few suggestions:  First let us all speak with love for God, and with respect for ourselves and for others.  We do best if we start by treating everyone else in the ways we want to be treated. 

Second, be trustworthy in your our own speech.  Let us get to know ourselves so well that we speak out of our inner reservoirs of truth and confidence.  We need to know own minds and take responsibility for what it in there.  This means saying what we think, not what we think is in someone else's mind.  It means being honest about our abilities to trust.  It means discovering what it will take in order for us to trust again when we have experienced dishonesty and betrayal.  It may mean that conversation will have to be at a minimum until we decide that we will trust again.

Third, as we are willing be held accountable for what we say, we have the privilege of asking others to be accountable as well.  When others have been caught in deception and outright lies, we do right by asking for clarification on those statements and seeing we if can find out why they might be true to them.  There is often a deeper truth behind deception, a fear that speaking truth will lead to being beat up or castigated in some way.  Go beyond the surface and  see to find the motives of the heart.  

I wish this were an easy process.  But frankly, I find little about living as a faithful Christian to be easy.  I do, however, find it rewarding and exhilarating and full of joy and happiness.  That's worth a bit of effort.

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