There comes a time – or really, thousands or millions of times – in each of our lives when we are faced with a decision to make, a value judgment that will help define our character by pinpointing who we choose to be during the short time we spend on this earth.
Sometimes these decisions will be easier than others, but sometimes they will be extremely difficult, declarations to the world that this is the stance you are taking, this is the type of person you are going to be, this is the set of rule or codes you have established for yourself, this is who you are. Morality vs. immorality, fact vs. fiction, objectivity vs. subjectivity, right vs. wrong. These are but a few of these important value judgments you will have to make amongst your day-to-day decisions, and they all tie into one another.
Today I want to talk to you about the value judgment of fact vs. feeling. Today I want to zoom in on the issue of honesty vs. sympathy – the battle between truth and affection – and provide a biblical basis for why one is clearly better than the other.
According to studies, it is estimated that the average adult makes a sum of 35,000 decisions each and every day; if you live an eighty-year long life, that’s over one billion decisions made. Of course, some of these decisions have little to do with value judgments (and more so with preference), but nevertheless many of them do, whether they be big decisions or small ones, choices of great meaning or of little-to-no significance whatsoever. It’s safe to say that, for many of us, a majority of these decisions might be related to how we handle our relationships with others, which brings us to one of the greatest value judgments of all, the one on which we speak today:
When you are deciding how to portray something to an individual you are particularly fond of, which is more important, giving them the truth or shepherding to how they feel?
This might seem like a random subject to discuss, but I believe it goes hand-in-hand with my many previous blog posts dealing with the biblical definition of love. You see, I think that the word “love” is often vastly misused in our present culture, and I want to go about returning us to the forgotten way of love as it is taught in the Bible. Part of this involves the value judgment between facts and feelings, because often our culture will misconstrue the presentation of one as love while the other is hate, whereas in fact they have things all twisted up. So before I move on, I will begin by quoting political commentator Ben Shapiro – and betray my true political stance in the process – by saying this:
“Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
Here’s the problem with our modern culture: we are way too politically correct. Yes, yes, I know it sounds like I’m about to go on a political rant, but stick with me for a second. We live in a culture where a statement of fact can be considered “hate speech” simply because it makes another person feel uncomfortable, and in a place where someone cannot lend a helping hand to another person without that person being made to feel like “less than a person.” Do you see how this can distort our ideas of what it means to love one another? This places us amidst a cultural climate that tries to stifle the truth – because, as you have known since you were a toddler, “the truth hurts” – and instead we are forced into a politically correct mindset of living within a world where objective truths do not exist, and everything must either be subjective on the individual level or else hate.
This is not the biblical way, and we need to be quick to turn from it.
If you aren’t following what I’m trying to say here, let me produce a rather extreme example for you. Let us look to one of the most feared sentences of our culture today: “I love you.” Now if we take this sentence and place it in two vastly different scenarios, I think you will understand the point I am trying to make. First, let’s look to a couple who meets at a bar and, in the midst of a one night stand, one of them mumbles the sentence out of frenzied passion with little-to-no thought of the words coming from their mouth. Conversely, let’s look towards a couple that has spent countless months, years, or decades together, having whether ups and downs and triumphs and tragedies together; when they say “I love you” to one another, isn’t it safe to say that the deliverance carries so much more meaning? This is because in the first scenario, the sentence was said as a result of feeling, which is subjective, emotionally-driven, and likely to change. In the second scenario, we see love as it is displayed through factual evidence: the person is not saying it because they are trying to earn something in return or because they do not understand what it means to love, but because they objectively have seen the tough times, endured them, and realized that nothing can steal them away from that other person. Thus, “I love you” means so much more when cemented in fact rather than feeling, and a person would be a fool to contest it.
Isn’t this how we should live our entire lives? The problem is – and I wrote about this a in a previous blog – often we are so worried about our loved ones’ feelings that we are afraid to tell them the truth. And I’m not talking just romantically here. In all of our relationships, often we are so caught up in other people’s feelings that we are afraid to tell them the truth simply because we want to avoid hurting them or taking away what happiness they seem to have found!
But don’t you remember how, in John 8:32, Jesus reminded us that when you know the truth, “the truth will set you free”? So why do we think that, by withholding the truth from someone simply to preserve hurting their feelings, we are actually helping them? To spare somebody the facts in order to let them remain blissful in their ignorance is not love at all, but hate. That’s like letting a lost person go on being lost without bothering to help them find their destination. Rather than letting them go on stubbornly looking to no avail, be willing to call them out, humble them, and point them in the right direction! This is the biblical way.
“But David,” you say, “What about that whole verse that says, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’?”
“Well,” I would reply, “That’s Matthew 7:1, and I think you should definitely read that in context.” First off, it should be pointed out that you aren’t judging somebody simply by telling them a fact. (If I tell a murderer that he is a murderer, am I judging him? No. In the same way, to tell a sinner that he is a sinner is by no means judging.) Second, if you read that verse in context, Jesus is telling us not to look down upon those people who are stumbling upon the same thing we ourselves stumble upon! This is the same passage that says, just a few verses later, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” God may be the ultimate judge, but we are called to be His ambassadors here on earth, so we are called to go about and remind people of their own iniquity.
I stray from the point. What I’m trying to remind you here is that nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to dilute the truth in order to pander to someone’s sensitivity. That just isn’t love. Whenever the people complained to Jesus about his hard teachings in John 6, he didn’t backtrack and start sugar-coating the message; he called them out on it and reminded them that he wasn’t looking for fans but that he was looking for followers. And if you are worried about turning people away, I’m going to remind you that Jesus isn’t looking for quantity, but quality; in that same instance from John 6, it is speculated thousands of Jesus’ followers left him at that moment. Jesus cared far more about presenting the truth than he did about making sure people felt comfortable.
I know that this post is sounding much more political than many of my others, but perhaps that is because this is one of the chief-most problems amidst the American cultural climate. Freedom of speech and religion is being stolen away from us because we profess the truth, and for some reason the people of our culture like to deem that truth “hate.” I think that, quite to the contrary, the Casting Crowns put it best in one of their songs when they say, “When we love, we earn the right to speak the truth, and when we speak truth, we show the world we truly love. I’m not pointing my finger; I’m holding out my hand. I’d lay it all on the line now to see God save my friend. Let my life and my words be the proof: I’m going to love you with the truth.”
So when you make decisions in life, who are you placing first – your friend, or their feelings? If you want what is best for that person, you will love them so much that you are willing (but obviously not inclined) to hurt them, because through that hurt, they will be turned to that which is better (which is, to say, Christ). Remember that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:3-5). This obviously doesn’t mean to unnecessarily go out and hurt people’s feelings or cause them unnecessary pain – to the contrary, I believe we should sympathize with a person’s emotions as much as possible – but that, when it is necessary, we will put their well-being above their own comfortability.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…the Gospel is one of the most uncomfortable things to accept, yet it is the very thing that breathes life into us, don’t you see? Let this fact in and of itself guide you to wisdom and understanding, and then humble yourself to the point that you may place that wisdom into practice within your own life, making value judgments so that you place what is true above all else, even the feelings of those you most dearly care about. It might not always be easy, but it is most definitely worth it every single time, and though they might not understand or recognize your love at that moment, they will come to not only understand but appreciate it in the future (good Lord willing).
Let God’s Word be the textbook that defines to you what is true, and go on living your life by taking what that textbook teaches and placing those lessons into action, that you may shine your light to this world filled with darkness, forsaking comfortability and understanding for the sake of that which is true and that which is right. My friends, it is better to be misunderstood and rejected thanks to Christ than it is to be envied and praised thanks to pandering to the world. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26, Mk 8:36, Lk 9:25).
We are called to love our neighbors, but we cannot love them fully (or really, at all) if we do not speak to them the truth. Facts don’t care about your feelings, so stop thinking that they do; present the facts, and let those facts dictate your expression of love as you help those around you pursue what is moral, factual, objective, and right. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).