by Kenneth Justice
–) “Do these jeans make me look fat?”
–) “Do you think she is pretty?”
Those are the kinds of questions no boyfriend or husband ever wants to be asked…right?
Is it really a lie if you say, “Sweetheart….you look great just like you always do”, when you don’t really mean it?
Is it okay to lie? Is it okay to ‘fudge’ just a little bit on the truth in order to prevent hurting someone’s feelings?
Ethical questions are difficult because there are a lot of grey areas in life. As much as we wish life was black-and-white; the reality is that much of life is grey.
I have a good friend who has more integrity in his little pinky than I have in my entire being…..just like the mythical George Washington, my friend ‘cannot tell a lie’.
But my friend has run into a problem; due to his commitment to always telling the truth and always looking at life in black-and-white glasses…in some ways it has alienated him from our culture.
When you are the type of person who always calls it the way you see it……it can cause you to come off as a little bit less gracious than you intend.
You see, the problem is that we aren’t perfect….the way we see it; is not always the way it really is…..
Growing up in conservative evangelical culture, I was taught to walk around telling everybody they were headed to hell if they didn’t believe the ‘right’ things….if they didn’t ‘believe what we believe’…..I was taught that ‘our view of the bible is the right view’
But that way of thinking left me feeling very empty….and more importantly; it alienated me from other people.
This ‘know-it-all’ mentality doesn’t just apply to religion; it can apply to other concepts as well.
Take for instance the subject of politics, don’t you find it difficult to sit down with someone who believes their political view is ‘perfect’ and anything less than their view is stupid and wrong?
‘Know-it-all’ people are not usually interested in real discussions….they are only interested in trying to convert people to their way of life and to their belief systems.
In the United States we have a LOT of know-it-alls. They make life tough for the rest of us. I am honest enough to admit that I used to be one of those people……I’m also honest enough to admit that when I really think about the way I used to be; I realize that I used to be miserable, I just didn’t know I was miserable.
–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is bite our tongue
–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is to not share our opinion
–) Sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen; even if we don’t agree with the other person
We don’t always have to be right…..right?
Remember when you were a kid….remember how much it annoyed you when the parental figure in your life always acted like they ‘knew everything’ and treated you like….well…..‘Like a kid that didn’t know anything’!
The man who made the greatest impact in my life died in 2012, he was 85 years old when he died and was a retired school social worker. For nearly 20 years he and I met for coffee twice a month on Saturday mornings and had thousands of conversations…….while I remember so much of what he told me over the years…..what I remember the most is what a great listener he was.
He watched me go from being a scrawny little 15 year old kid to a married man with children……and as I think back……I can see so clearly how he skillfully ‘bit his tongue’ and let me figure a lot of things out for myself over the years……
Was he ‘lying’ when he bit his tongue and didn’t tell me exactly what he was thinking? I don’t think so……
I believe he was demonstrating grace towards me. That is an essential element of grace; loving people unconditionally and letting them figure out life for themselves. Not ‘telling them what to do’ but instead, ‘being there for them now matter what’.
The world is filled with a lot of know-it-alls….but we are direly in need of good listeners. We are in need of people who know what grace and love are…..who know when it is a time to speak and a time to listen……
For now, it is time for another cup of coffee,