In the world we live in, there are a number of ways we can choose to respond to any given situation. It seems that our culture today actually (if not secretly) desires a harsh tone in interaction. Take a “brash” character like the Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is lauded for his “straight talk” and adamant decision-making. His nemesis on the other side of the political spectrum, Bernie Sanders, is also extoled for the same reason.
I struggle believing that our culture REALLY wants this type of harsh and pointed discussion. I personally think people are just frustrated over the political calculating of office holders today…and this attraction to brashness is a bit of an overreaction. After all, do you really want someone who says to you: “Hey, don’t be stupid. You’re getting fat and that is costly to all of your neighbors!” Or… “Stop having babies. Use your brain! You can’t afford to support what you have and I shouldn’t have to pay for them for you!” Or finally, “What are you, ignorant? You need a wall to keep bad guys out. Stop coddling people who use ‘anchor babies’ to secure a right to free stuff!” (Do you really want people speaking of children as anchor babies? Seriously? Why not reintroduce other slurs into the discourse as well!)
Even if there were an element of truth to any part of these statements (which I am arguing neither FOR or AGAINST), the tone is rhetoric. You do not persuade people to change actions with this tone. You may shame some, but you cannot persuade a person to choose change by telling them they are stupid.
On the other end of the spectrum is a person who chooses to say only positive things. They follow the advise, “If you cannot say something nice, then do not say anything at all.” This is softer and sweeter, but equally as destructive. Failing to help people see their failed viewpoints, to help them change their outlook when they are in error is not kind. It may be nice…but it is certainly not kind. For example…You have a friend who moves from failed marriage to failed mariage. She approaches you on the third experience and says she thinks this is the “one.” You KNOW she has an issue with trust. It has been the downfall in all of the previous relationships but you choose to be nice. “Just pray for her,” you say. Is this nice? Perhaps…but it is certainly not kind. Not to her and not to her next husband. Instead, lovingingly and gently help her to see that she needs to get healing for the issues regarding trust. If she will not see, then the KIND thing to do is to present TRUTH with kindness. Present truth in a gentle way.
Here is the instruction Solomon gives pertaining to this:
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4.
To default to one and exclude the other is to fall into disrepute with either God, man, or both.
So, Default Mode: Kindness and Truth. Marching orders for the day.