Q. How can I “speak the truth in love” and still maintain a real friendship?
A. Without truth, friendship isn’t true friendship. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov 27:6
When you care about someone, it’s tempting to avoid telling the truth, especially when that truth might hurt. You might be tempted to shade the truth about yourself because you want to look as good as you possibly can. And you may even be tempted to speak less than the truth to your friend because you don’t want to hurt or offend him or her. Even worse, you don’t want to be seen as a “control freak.”
But faithful friends must sometimes speak words that bring pain. If your words hurt, make sure that they are spoken lovingly. Offer them as “faithful wounds,” the kind that are necessary for your friend’s best interests. And be sure to stand by your friend through the inevitable process of denial, anger, acceptance, adjustment and renewal. Your steadfast love will have grown in quality and maturity!
Of course, speaking the truth can be done without love, even with a friend. But “speaking the truth in love,” means you speak with respect, gentleness, and kindness, all the while maintaining your friend’s dignity.
Resist the temptation to speak out of anger or frustration, sentiments which are mostly couched in unbelief. “If I don’t speak like that, he or she will never change!” Not true; always keep God in the equation; there’s nothing so beautiful as a relationship sanctioned and undergirded by Him.
Finally, withholding truth from a friend flaws your own integrity and undermines and devalues your friendship. Eph 4:25-5:2 has a really inspired contribution to make to your question. Read it carefully and prayerfully, and then apply it faithfully. You’ll never be sorry; you’ll forever be glad!