May 26, 2021

Truth-telling - Marnie Pohlmann

My blog post for today is late. I did not procrastinate - much, but I am hesitant to share my thoughts on the power of words. Words are so powerful they change lives. God is the power of words of Truth. I am still working through my view on the appropriate use of truth-telling.  But with trepidation, may I present a different view than most of the posts this month?

When I speak,
I often say the wrong thing or use the wrong words or have the wrong tone, even when speaking Truth. I am not understood. Sometimes it is like I’m speaking a different language, trying to make my point. If I am not with people, there is less opportunity to offend with my words, right? Perhaps that is the true reason I am an introvert - fear.

When I write,
I am also afraid, of putting words in black and white - they may last for eternity, always to be referred to as proof I was wrong, or unkind, or selfish, or whatever else was lacking in me at the time of writing. I was silenced from speaking the truth of my life for many years, so putting it onto the stone tablet for sharing is especially frightful. Of course, conversing in laughter, or writing creative fiction of some sort is safer. Those times and writings are fun.

I am not the happy sunflower type of Christian. I am prone more to being a weedy Christian - like dandelions. Sometimes bright, sometimes fun, but still considered a pest when I blow up when I attempt to spread seeds of Truth that are meant to multiply, to influence near and far, but are not liked.

I think when I act or speak or write in ways that offend others, there are three reasons.

1) I am still responding to the trauma of my childhood, to lies that were set into my being as beliefs. My whole adult life I have been dealing with capturing and learning Truth to combat those lies, and some are so deeply entrenched I expect to spend the rest of my life digging them out when I recognize them.

2) Again because of my childhood, I feel silenced, unheard, not valued, until I cannot stand it anymore and blurt out my thoughts. Having spent time with those thoughts inside me, I have often dissected them enough to have compared them to Scripture and am convinced of their Truth. But the delivery means the Truth is not always heard.

3) The third reason that others may be offended by what I write is that it hits them squarely between the eyes as Truth.

We are often told to “sandwich” criticism as a layer set between encouragements, or to at least find ways to say it kindly. When speaking or writing Truth, though, especially when speaking into the life of another, whether we know them or not, there are times when kind words mask the truth, couching it to make it seem not too important or necessary to respond to.

So how do you correct, criticize, reprimand, or discipline others when it is needed?

What would Jesus say?
The red words in our Bibles do not always sound kind. Jesus was compassionate to the lost who sought him. The writers of the Gospels record many incidents of this. But they also recorded some of Jesus’ harsh words to his disciples and the leaders of religion. He was not kind. He was straightforward, reprimanding, even name-calling! A few examples?

Jesus told the disciples that what God did in the life of another disciple was none of their business (John 21:20-23) 

2)      He suggested to the quibbling disciples that neither of them may be qualified to sit at his side in the coming Kingdom. To seek position is not what is important, but God Himself would decide (Mark 10:35-45. Matthew writes it was their mother who asked Jesus if her sons could sit at his side, but Mark attributes the question to the brothers themselves.)

3)      Jesus called the Pharisees names, like the “offspring of vipers.”  (Matthew 23:13-36)

So, I ask, is it appropriate to speak or write words of Truth that will and do offend others?
More examples, these from Paul.

1)      Paul tells Christians he will deal sharply with them if things have not changed before he arrives. (2 Cor 13:10) That sounds harsh, doesn't it?

2)      Paul tells others to correct and rebuke those (other believers) who sin. (1 Tim 5:20, Titus 2:15)

We all know any correction is difficult to take. Those red pen marks from an editor are difficult for writers but are meant to be helpful, so we accept them. If they are suggestions or general comments, we may not take them seriously. If they are definite, like “no comma needed,” we are likely to concede the editor is correct. Even if a non-writer, non-editor, reader makes a comment that “This sentence is hard to read,” we will take a good look at it. It does not matter so much who gives correction, we still need to look at it and decide if it is applicable to us.

Being reprimanded is even more difficult than correction. Yet again, reprimands are sometimes necessary. While correction is helping us be better, a reprimand is telling us we are wrong and need to change something. In our writing, if we make a historical error, we may receive a reprimand that we did not fact-check so are misrepresenting the truth. In business, we may receive a reprimand for a mistake that costs money, time, or clients. These are examples of stating a fact - this is the truth, this is what you did or what happened or what your actions caused while telling us we need to correct it or at least own it and not repeat it.

We can and hopefully do learn from our mistakes without others always pointing them out, but sometimes we have a blind spot that keeps us from recognizing we are doing wrong. Someone may need to point it out. I believe it is a believer’s responsibility to correct and reprimand our eternal fellow-travelers in The Way. The fruits of the Spirit are to be sought, learned, and practiced, absolutely. But does it not also take correction and reprimand to sometimes help us learn to put into practice those fruits?

While I believe in practicing kind words, I also believe there is a time and place to give and receive a reprimand. With this, there are also cautions I am learning.

1)      Ensure you are not criticizing from a gut reaction that may be guided by faulty beliefs on your part.

2)      Think it through and know why you are convinced “someone” should say “something” to correct another. Remember that like needs, if you are the one who sees it, you are probably the one God is calling to do it.

3)      Speak Truth plainly, with clear honesty, calling sin what it is. Do not make a rebuke into a suggestion.

Are we able to be kind in rebuking others?
I hope so. But like using words in speech or writing, we need to practice so we get better. At first, we may be a little weedy. Others will be offended no matter how it is done if they are convicted by the Truth of the words, but we cannot learn if we do not practice. (In my opinion) Christians are too willing to reprimand non-believers and excuse believers, rather than love non-believers and reprimand those in their local church family.

As I said, I am not good at reprimanding. I do not want to do it. Someone in a position of authority, or knowledge, or with a closer relationship should say what needs to be said. God can do this through His Word, even, or through those who He has placed in authority. However, God does not usually choose the mighty to battle wrongdoing. He sends the child, the weak, and the broken to show His strength and Glory in the battle.

God sends you and me to reprimand others. He sends others to reprimand us. God asks us to use our words to give both Life-giving Love-Truth and Life-giving Discipline-Truth. This is partly why both speaking and writing words can be scary. Others may be blessed, but they may also be offended. 

Is it a risk you will take?

An open rebuke
is better than hidden love.
Prov 27:5


  1. Thanks, Marnie. Love this post. Truth in love is not always easily done but if the Spirit leads us we do need to step out. On the other hand, when someone comes to us with a reprimand we must also learn to receive it in love and take all things before the Lord. This post spoke to my heart in many, many ways.

  2. Wow, this is a very thought provoking post ... you've raised someinteresting issues. I agree with many of your points, one of the most powerful being: (In my opinion) Christians are too willing to reprimand non-believers and excuse believers, rather than love non-believers and reprimand those in their local church family. Very fitting verse as well. Great post, things to ponder.
    And, I must say I've taken a lot of pictures of single dandelions in bloom-they're beautiful!

  3. Like Jocelyn, I found the statement she pointed to quite powerful. Thank you for sharing so openly. You know that I am one of your biggest cheerleaders and fans, and more often than not find your posts inspiring.

  4. How true what you wrote is. Jesus especially tore a strip off hypocrites. He didn't hold back when he lashed out at them and ruined their temple marketplace. The best balance is to be polite but firm. Wrong is wrong and that's all there is to it. Let people become angry. It just shows their character.

  5. So true, Marnie. I am learning that the best way to “reprimand” is to ask questions and listen to understand another’s story before I tell them my opinion. It’s taking awhile for me to learn this and I have gotten myself into a pile of trouble while “practicing” but sometimes practicing is the only way to learn. I so agree with you on this: “But like using words in speech or writing, we need to practice so we get better. At first, we may be a little weedy. Others will be offended no matter how it is done if they are convicted by the Truth of the words, but we cannot learn if we do not practice. (In my opinion) “
    Pam M.

  6. I don't find it easy to confront. I like to be liked, and the fear of the opposite is real. But confrontation is crucial, even at the risk of being unappreciated or misunderstood.


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