Matthew 5:33-37, part of the gospels’ summary of Jesus’s teachings, challenges the way we handle the truth.
And it’s a necessary challenge. Truth, embellishments, hedges, and avoidances all make business and interpersonal relationships that much more complicated. We’ve learned to distrust marketers and their advertising claims, and “Just give it to me straight” is a thrown gauntlet: Should I really tell them what I think? How will things change when I do?
Insecurity unsettles us, and so we embellish our speech. We lie. I’ve texted, “On my way” before I’ve been on my way because I expected disappointment for leaving later than expected. I’ve talked in circles about my beliefs on politics and religion because I don’t trust the motives of the people asking. I’ve lived and worked and loved as if my Yes and No are insufficient.
In this space between two people comes the Wise One, teaching: “Say ‘Yes’ when you mean yes, and ‘No’ when you mean no, and ‘I don’t know’ when you really don’t know. Anything beyond that is an attempt to exert power and control.”
There’s no need for fancy mess. The truth is enough.
It can also be terrifying, if vulnerability is involved. The truth might be “I don’t think this role fits for me anymore and I need to step down.” Or “Yes, I do want us to work together on money. I’m tired of trying to figure it out on my own.” Or “I know you don’t understand who I am. I’m sorry you’re missing out on my life, and I wish things were different. But they aren’t.”
The truth being true doesn’t imply anything about what others might do or say in response. But it does let you shed unnecessary weight: all the footnotes and explainers and explain-away-ers that you need to prop up embellishments and dodges. It does allow you to choose the simplest words, the ones you don’t have to memorize in advance because they are true.
The good news? The good news is that we can begin again. Wherever we are—at home or at work or on the streets—whenever we notice insecurity rising, whenever our tongues curl around an extra word or story, we can swallow gently and choose a different way. Because a world we build on any other ground than the truth is not worth living in.
Take a moment: self-check. Where has insecurity guided you lately? What beliefs have you been building your relationships on? Are those beliefs worth switching out for more honesty more often?