Have you ever been around someone who just “tells it like it is”?
This is the type of person who seems to have no conscience about how their words affect others, and they may even pride themselves on how unfiltered their tongue is. This friend has no problem telling you when you are in the wrong, and they don’t always care how they let you know, either.
Conversely, you may have a close friend who is extremely gracious. They always support you, even if you might not deserve it. When you come to them for advice about a situation, they often take your side.
When it comes to giving or receiving advice, I think that everyone falls on a spectrum between truth and grace.
There are some people who view themselves as truth tellers. We come to this person when we are stuck in a tough situation because we value their ability to tell us what they think is right, no matter how much we may not like to hear it. But, we also may cringe a little being around them due to how they say things. Their truth telling may at times lack the gentleness that we prize in our most vulnerable moments. If you’ve ever been accused of not caring about someone’s feelings when you talk about deeper issues, this might be you.
On the other hand, there are those people who you know you can go to when you need to be encouraged. Often, these people have a hard time saying tough things because they are afraid that they will hurt someone’s feelings or that their friends might not like them if they say what they really think. They, however, have a remarkable ability to encourage those around them and are usually very attuned to people’s emotions.
Some people really value the truth teller when they seek advice. They want to know what you think about an issue, and they don’t want you to mince words while you do it. These people tend to be very factually driven. They base the way they approach their world primarily around logic and rational thoughts.
Other people, however, really care about the way that their advice is told to them. Sure, they might be able to acknowledge that they were in the wrong in a particular situation, but they do this best when they are handled with grace. If they feel attacked by too much truth with little to no grace, they often will either shut down or become defensive. These people may want to know the truth, but they handle it best when they are treated with care.
We may see ourselves as a truth person or a grace giver, I think that deep down each and every one of us wants both. We long for people to care enough about us to tell us when we are wrong and call us out, but we want it done in a way that protects our fragile emotions. It seems that some truth tellers often struggle with reconciling this, as they may claim to want people to shoot straight with them with little regard for how it might come across. Even the toughest, surliest person, however, still has a desire to be treated with grace.
In our relationships, we should seek to be people full of both truth and grace, giving each other the respect to say what we truly believe but also the care to do it in a way that values each other’s personhood.
• Mischa McCray is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Send questions or topics you’d like him to discuss to firstname.lastname@example.org.