January 9, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider what it means to speak the truth in love. This is not a matter of perpetual niceness. It doesn’t mean never saying anything that might unsettle someone. Rather, speaking the truth in love means extending to others the love of God given to us in Christ. It means speaking not for our own benefit but in order to serve others and their benefit.
In many cases, speaking the truth in love is pleasant, both for the speaker and for the recipient. This is true in our daily work as well as in our interactions with other members of the body of Christ. If, for example, you take time to thank someone who reports to you at work for doing a good job, chances are you’ll both enjoy that conversation.
But there are times when speaking the truth in love is not at all comfortable. In my life, one of the most difficult occasions of truth speaking has come when someone I supervise is consistently not doing acceptable work. It’s hard to tell someone they’re not meeting expectations, as their joy is at risk, especially if they don’t agree. When I need to have this kind of conversation with someone, I prayerfully examine my motivations. I ask the Lord’s help to speak the truth in love, seeking to care for the other person, even if they won’t perceive that I’m caring for them. I do believe that if a person is not in the right job, I’m not doing them any favors by keeping them in a position where they cannot flourish.
There are many other times in the workplace when speaking the truth in love is difficult. I can think of occasions when I did not agree with a decision made by my boss and felt strongly that I needed to say something. I had to sort out whether my desire to speak up was motivated by ego or by a commitment to wanting the best for the organization.
Acknowledging that sometimes it is tough to speak the truth in love at work, I want to reiterate what I’ve said before. Mostly, when we speak in a way that is shaped by the Gospel, we are pleased, and so are those to whom we have spoken. When I make an effort to encourage one of my colleagues, for example, both of us feel joy.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of times when you have spoken the truth in love at work? Were these pleasant conversations? Or difficult conversations? Or both?
How often do you thank or encourage those who work with you? Is this something you might do more often as you seek to speak the truth in love?
When you need to have a difficult conversation with someone in your workplace, what helps you to speak the truth in love? What makes it hard for you to do this?
Something to Do:
Take some time to think about your colleagues and the work they’ve been doing. Identify at least one person whom you can affirm and encourage today. Then do it.
Gracious God, I want to be someone who speaks the truth, not just in my personal life or in my Christian community, but in my public life, especially at work. Sometimes this is easy, Lord. But sometimes it’s hard. I find that my motivations can be so mixed up. Or my emotions flare and I speak in anger rather than in love. Help me, I pray, to speak the truth in love with my colleagues at work, as well as with my customers, vendors, funders, and even with my competitors. May all of my speech honor you, the God of truth and love. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Human Dignity Requires Truthtelling
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.