The qualification that we are being honest or authentic doesn't give us license to say whatever comes to mind. After all, Jesus didn't run around blurting out everything that was true. While he was never deceitful, Jesus sometimes intentionally withheld truth because he knew that the audience wasn't ready to hear it. He knew when to speak a harsh rebuke and when to be silent.
Evaluate your "authenticity"
reminds us that the tongue—our words—wields the power of both life and death. Let me ask you a few tough but discerning questions to help you determine how you are using the power of your tongue:
- Do you listen more than you talk? All the emphasis on authenticity seems to be focused on what we say. However, the most intimate conversations are usually prompted by someone choosing to authentically listen. I have found that many people seek counseling simply because they are desperate for someone to listen and validate their experience. If you long for deeper intimacy, start by becoming a great listener—someone who truly cares about the heart of other people.
- How are you dressed? gives some very practical advice for what we should "wear" when we interact with others. Using clothes as a word picture, Paul gives a list of things to take off including anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. Then he urges Christians to "clothe yourselves" with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. This doesn't mean faking kindness when we feel anger toward something. It means having the self-control to harness hurtful words and asking God to show us what authentic love looks like in that particular moment.