If someone says something or does something that hurts you, what is the godly response? Is it to pretend like everything is fine so you can keep the peace? Or is it to confront the person to prove how wrong they are?
I’m learning that it’s actually neither.
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 (NIV)
If ever I catch myself pretending or proving, I know I’m processing my hurt the wrong way.
The godly way is approaching this situation with soul integrity — responding in a way that’s honest but also peacemaking. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure [honest]; then peace-loving …” Yes, I want this kind of wisdom — this soul integrity. I want to be honest and peacemaking at the same time. But how?
Just realizing this can help me make progress. After all, hurt feelings don’t often want to cooperate with holy instructions.
Not all honest expressions of my feelings can be categorized as “healthy.” You see, my honest feelings may not be truthful assessments of the situation. I can be honest with how I feel and still exaggerate or misinterpret what is factually true. I can feel justified in being blatant about my feelings and not holding anything back by thinking, “I’m just being true to myself.” But if I’m not being true to my most healed self, then I could compound everyone’s hurt.
Honesty that isn’t surrendered to truth isn’t honesty at all. It could just be emotional spewing. That’s why we need peacemaking honesty — honesty reined in by the Holy Spirit — if we’re going to have authentic soul integrity.
So, if I want real honesty, I have to ask the Holy Spirit to show me real truth. I need to see things from the other person’s perspective. I need to ask questions with the desire to better understand instead of throwing out statements of accusation. Ultimately, my goal should be to add peacemaking to my honesty.
It must grieve God to see plastic versions of peacemaking that aren’t reined in by honesty. That’s what we do when we stuff our emotions and pretend everything is okay. The upside to stuffing is that we have the semblance of peacemakers. But when we do this at the expense of honesty, we harbor a corrosive bitterness that will eventually emerge. Either it will erode our health and later present itself in a host of emotional and physical anxiety-induced illnesses, or it will accumulate over time and surprise everyone when the peacemaker eventually erupts. Saying “I’m fine” to keep the peace when we’re really not fine builds walls and shuts down intimacy.
Sometimes, dishonesty comes in the form of saying things that aren’t true. But it’s also dishonest when we pretend to be okay but secretly simmer with resentment.
It may seem godly in the moment, but it’s false godliness. Truth and godliness always walk hand-in-hand. The minute we divorce one from the other, we stray from soul integrity and give a foothold to the instability that inevitably leads to coming unglued.
Yes, we’re after soul integrity — honesty that is also peacemaking that leads to godliness. This soul integrity brings balance to unglued reactions. It makes us true peacemakers — people who aren’t proving or pretending but rather, honestly demonstrating what they experience in a godly manner.
None of this is easy. None of this is tidy. But I’m convinced better reactions can lead to better relationships.
Dear Lord, it is only through You that I’m able to bring all my exploding and stuffing under Your authority and Truth. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who gives me wisdom and helps me have better reactions. Help me lean on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lysa TerKeurst is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book is Seeing Beautiful Again: 50 Devotions to Find Redemption in Every Part of Your Story (March 2021). Lysa lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.