Thursday, June 02, 2005

Truthing in Love

There is a lot of talk these days, and even some heated arguments, about truth and love. The champions of truth are without love, their opponents aver, and those who speak only of love are told that they ignore truth in order to embrace a fuzzy, sentimental brand of love that isn't really love at all.

So who's right? It's not a simple matter of right and wrong. In such debates, it is rare that one side would be wholly right and the other wholly wrong. So let us lovingly try to discover the truth.

Truth and love are not options for us to choose when we are deciding how to live, to believe, and to relate to others. Both are equally essential. Truth without love is tyranny, and love without truth cannot be genuine, because love and falsehood are mutually exclusive. We can't even do right by accepting some disproportion between the two. We can't be 60% for truth and 40% for love, or 30% truth and 70% love. We have to be all truth and all love!

This is a very difficult feat for fallen humans, but the saints did it rather well. We ought to look especially to Jesus and his Mother as ideals. St Paul gives us an appropriate expression for this most genuine Christian way of being. The passage I'm referring to (Ephesians 4:15) is usually translated "speaking the truth in love" or, somewhat more accurately, "doing the truth in love." But the literal translation is simply "truthing in love." Since "truthing" isn't an English word, the translators gave us the next best thing.

But I prefer "truthing" because it covers everything: speaking, doing, living the truth in love. Christians are the ones who are supposed to go about truthing in love. We must speak the truth as written in the Gospel and proclaimed by the Church, even if it causes some pain or distress to those who hear (those are signs that they need the grace of repentance). But we cannot use the truth as a weapon of self-righteous superiority, taking pride in shaming others by having bettered them with a more cogent argument.

On the other hand, when we say we love others or have compassion for them, yet refuse to bring the truth to them on the pretext that it might upset or trouble them, we are doing them a grave disservice. Sometimes the failure to speak the (sometimes hard) truth to those we love can result in damage to or even the loss of their souls. How is that love? It is then nothing more than mushy cowardice.

St Paul continues his exhortation: "...truthing in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ..." So, if we're going to be "loving truthers," we have to grow up! We have to mature by the grace of God so that we know how to place equal value on truth and love, for one cannot exist without the other. We have to learn, in the Holy Spirit, when and how to speak and act in such a way that both truth and love are equally served, and thus that God's will is done. Only then will we be truthing in love, and loving in truth.