The Whole Truth?

Terry Lieb Judging Others 2 Comments

On the way to the recreation center I met an older gentleman walking a small fur ball on steroids! I expect this little four-legged creature’s only goal each day was to meet and greet as many humans as “doggily” possible! Even non-dog lovers would be won over by this enthusiastic little charmer who greeted me like an old friend he hadn’t seen in years. He was ecstatic when I bent down to pet him.

The old man said, “My little friend has the unique ability to pick out sensitive, caring and overall good folks. He’s nine years old and I haven’t seen him misread a person yet! We call him ‘Hap,’ short for Happy.”

After I scratched Hap’s head and thanked him for making me feel special, I spent a little time getting to know the man on the other end of the leash, who turned out to be named Carl. I asked Carl if he was a frog, a person who will stay in Florida until they croak, or a snowbird who only overwinters there. He quickly responded, “We have lived here 18 years and most folks see me as a strange bird!” I had the distinct impression I might be in the presence of a character!

Carl shared a little of his own history before retiring to Florida, then asked what line of work I was in. I told him that I was a counselor and consultant with a church-related agency most of my professional life and that I was a rostered leader in the Lutheran Church. Carl looked at me curiously and said, “So you’re a preacher?” I told him I was a Deacon.

“That will do,” he said. “I have a question for you.

Is it a real lie if you don’t tell a person the complete story?” he wanted to know.

“You don’t tell them something that isn’t true, you just keep part of the story in your pocket?”

I was intrigued. “Well,” I replied, “I don’t personally believe God keeps a little checkbook on each of us, putting down black marks every time we do something wrong. But it would be helpful if you could give me an example.”

“That’s easy,” he said. “Remember that little description I just gave you about Hap, about how he is able to pick out sensitive, caring and overall good people?  Well the part I didn’t tell you is that Hap sees all folks that way. Now is that really a lie just because I didn’t tell you that last little piece?”

This time I recognize this sneaky God at work immediately! “I am not a God expert,” I made clear, “but the God I’m getting to know over the past 70 years is mostly concerned about our intentions. Both you and Hap seem focused on making folks feel special and good about themselves. Actually, I expect God is quite pleased with both of you.”

“I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Carl said, a twinkle in his eye. “I kind of like your God!”

As Hap pulled him off to greet the next sensitive, caring and overall good person, I chuckled to myself, thinking that liking doesn’t really capture my experience of God. The God I am discovering anew each day is certainly awesome—but also sneaky, unpredictable, perplexing, persistent, challenging, and continuously pushing me outside my box!

Not too much later, I ran across another situation concerning truth telling that had a far different effect on me. As I was walking the beach one afternoon I noticed a “for sale” sign on a well-kept beachfront property—the second in just a few houses. Curious, I approached the woman who was setting up lounge chairs in front of the home and asked her if she would mind answering a few questions about the property. As we talked, her husband came out and joined us. After several other questions, I asked why they were selling such a beautiful home.

The couple exchanged a glance before the husband jumped in and quickly explained that they owned three homes and for financial reasons one needed to be sold. His wife seemed somewhat uncomfortable, but said nothing.

“When I was walking by, I noticed that at high tide the ocean was up close to your concrete retaining wall and the stairway down to the beach looks like it’s disappearing into the sand,” I said. “Has it been like that ever since you’ve owned the home?”

A very awkward silence ensued. Then the woman spoke, “No, it hasn’t,” she admitted. “The ocean has gradually been coming closer. That has been of increasing concern for me.” An even more awkward silence descended and I thanked them, saying if I was interested I would call the number on the sign.

Needless to say, this couple did not ask me as Carl had, how I thought God may have responded to our conversation. I expect I would have said basically the same thing. It isn’t what we say—or don’t say—but what is in our hearts and our intentions that matters.


Questions for Deepening Your Faith Journey

1. Do you think these two scenarios are fundamentally different? Is “incomplete” honesty okay in one situation but not the other? If so, what is the difference?
2. If there was something wrong with your house, would you be forthcoming to potential buyers or, like the homeowners I met, hope they didn’t ask? Have you ever been in a similar situation? What did you do?
3. In situations where you don’t tell the whole truth, what guidelines do you use for deciding to hold some parts back? Are you comfortable with these guidelines and do you stick to them?
4.  Are you always completely honest with yourself about your own intentions? What are your favorite ways to justify your actions to yourself?
5. Imagine for a moment what life would be like if each of us began to nurture that same intention that I experienced in Carl and Hap. What would that look like?
6. What are some ways you can help someone else feel good about themselves? Make a list of as many ideas as you can. Can you commit to actually implementing one of your ideas every day for one week?
7. If you accepted the challenge, how did it affect you? Please share your experience and what it stirred up inside of you by sending us a comment on this website! If you didn’t undertake the challenge, what is standing in your way?
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Dave Evans
Dave Evans
April 25, 2019 7:35 am

As ministers in daily life I believe it is important to reflect on our actions such that we are servants of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, as the human beings that we are, we are prone to make mistakes from time to time, in some cases, minute to minute. That being said, because we are forgiven, it is important to continually ask ourselves if we are truly being the face of Jesus Christ in all our interactions which for me means trying to be more like Hap but realizing I probably don’t do enough to personally do what I can to slow… Read more »

June 20, 2019 1:33 am

Sometimes honesty can be used as an excuse/justification for hurtful, mean-spirited comments so I don’t believe “total” honesty is necessarily always the most compassionate course of action. In all these things, intentions makes a big difference. “Dishonesty” for personal gain is far different than tact meant to spare someone’s feelings or make them feel good about themselves.