I’ve been thinking again about that whole “speaking the truth in love” admonition that I’ve written about before. What does it really mean to love someone when speaking the truth to them?
At first, it may seem like a no-brainer. If you love someone, you have no reason to lie to them. Of course we are honest with our loved ones. We want them to be honest with us, right?
But what about when the truth (at least as best as we can perceive it) hurts? What about when it is scary? When it might damage the relationship or bring pain to another or destabilize one’s confidence and sense of self-worth? What does it mean to love then?
At its simplest, love is about caring. Caring about another person, one of God’s beloved. Some of us find it easy to care about another’s feelings, his emotions, experiences, and history. We tend to shy away from saying anything that might cause pain in the present moment. And that is certainly a component of what it means to care about another person.
But the other side of Christlike care, which I often find harder to act upon, is that which recognizes every moment of an individual’s life as part of a much larger trajectory. It is the kind of care that gives thought not only to who a person is at this particular moment, but also who that person is becoming. The care that feels the heavy responsibility of human interaction; that considers carefully how every action and reaction leaves a mark on two or three or infinitely many pliable human souls; that sees upon each man and woman’s shoulders the weight of eternal destiny, and bears that burden with them in a heart filled with Christlike sympathy.
As per usual, C. S. Lewis puts it much better than I can: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously -- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner -- no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.”