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“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)
As I write this Pulse, I am ten days away from finishing my counseling internship and graduating with my Masters of Professional Counseling. Last week, I shared one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my internship: everyone has a story, so take the time to listen before you judge them. This week, I wanted to share another important lesson I have learned from my internship. As the author and speaker Brene Brown puts it: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
I have always struggled with conflict and confrontation, and have often tiptoed around hard truths out of the fear of damaging relationship. As a counselor, however, I have grown accustomed over the past year to speaking directly and asking hard questions. At my internship, I am required during every counseling session to ask my client if they have been considering suicide. I also have to ask regularly about substance use, abuse, depression, trauma, and many other personal subjects. When I look back at how I have changed over the past year, one of the main things I notice is that I a much more direct with my questions and statements. And that is a good thing.
The Brene Brown quote I referenced above, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind” comes from her bestseller Dare to Lead. I found that quote to be a very memorable way to remind me that even when it makes me uncomfortable, speaking clearly and directly is the best way to communicate. Beating around the bush, telling half-truths, or worse – speaking to other people about someone who is not present – are not kind (or loving) ways of speaking. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love so that we will in all things grow up. 2000 years later, those words still resonate – we can all mature when we are willing to speak the truth in love, clearly and directly.
Just as we would be better served by communicating clearly and directly, we will also be better served by inviting other to speak clearly and directly with us. People are often afraid to tell us things that might hurt our feelings, or might make them uncomfortable. One of the best things we can do is to simply ask people to communicate in a straightforward manner with us. We can tell them that we would appreciate hearing what they really think, and we can let them know that whatever they have to say, we can handle it. And then, of course, we need to be able to listen without interruption, getting defensive, or attacking back. I have been able to put this into practice in both one-on-one discussions and in group discussion, beginning conversations by asking people to speak honestly so that we can deal with the real issues.
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. Speak the truth in love, and invite others to do the same with you.