“The Truth is Your Friend”

I’m not sure when I first heard this aphorism, but I’m fairly certain it came from the late Charlie Siburt, who was over the DMin program at Abilene Christian University. Charlie, a mentor of many a preacher, became well known for his pithy quips he used to help leaders think more deeply about their leadership.

One such quip, “The Truth is Your Friend” has been a quite useful, and sometimes painful, reminder that all of us sometimes have difficulty telling it like it is—and most often we don’t even tell ourselves the truth. Honestly, it takes discipline and resolution to face the truth in the eyes.

In the context of leadership, truth refers to seeking reality as it really is—to the best of our abilities. This discipline requires us neither to maximize nor minimize the actual state of things. But it also requires us to face our own propensity to deny reality. For example, I may know that my organization is not doing well financially and month after month I avoid looking at the books and getting a real dollar amount for what the organization really owes.  This situation will only get worse until I do the hard evaluation to gather the facts, or the truth. Then I must do something to change the course that has been laid. Obvious, right? But we all have practiced some form of avoidance, perhaps, in our finances but certainly in other areas of our lives.

We do this every time we hope something will get better by doing nothing about it. Perhaps doing nothing is the right thing to do, but only if nothing is done intentionally. And we should alway remember that even doing nothing, whether consciously or through avoidance, is a decision to “do” nothing.

There are several things we need to become more truthful about—and doing this will increase our pain at first but will produce positive fruit in the end. Here are some that I find painfully helpful.

  1. How is it with my soul, really? Our internal life is what we will play out in the various arenas of our lives. In short, if we are not good people we will not be good leaders.
  2. How well am I taking care of me? Leaders need to remember that their primary “tool” of effectiveness is how they manage themselves.
  3. Why am I avoiding painful, but necessary conversations? We all need to have these painful conversations. But when we find ourselves avoiding one we know we must have, then . . . the truth is our friend. The first truth, however, might be that we lack courage.
  4. What tasks am I putting off? We all favour tasks we like but sometime the ones we do not like so much are important for our and our organization’s success.
  5. What are things I really can not change now? The truth may be that while something needs attention, it does not necessary need to be now.

Perhaps you can think of some other questions or situations where “the truth is your friend.”

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Transparency: Being Truthful before God

I have been reminded this past week that telling the truth can be hard. I am not just talking about confessing bold sins, but about the way we humans lie to ourselves and others about the little things leading up to the announcement of the bold sins. These more subtle mis-truths set the stage for the curtain to fall.

Now we also lie by what we do not say. The failure to confront is participating in the sin of others. This “fear” of confrontation is one of Satan’s best tools for keeping us from becoming transparent before God. When we get to the point where we cannot speak into each other lives because we are afraid of the possible reaction, we have succumbed to the Evil One–we are working for him.

What we need is a new sense of “transparency.” Even the secular leadership world is giving attention to the need for a new level of honesty among leaders. Warren Bennis, a well-established leadership expert, recently co-authored a book called Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor. When these authors define transparency or candor, they mean that organizations should have a free flow of information among the members of the organization and even the public.

Now if the business world knows the value of being open and honest, how much more should the church of God who has been admonished to stop lying to one another (Col. 3.9) and to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4.15). God calls us to have nothing to do with “fruitless deeds of darkness” but rather to expose them (Eph. 5.11).

Bennis makes it clear in his book that creating an environment where people are free to speak the truth begins with the leaders in the organization. If the leadership will not hold themselves mutually accountable, transparency will never permeate the organization.

Without transparency, there will be no trust and, without trust, we cannot move forward in God’s mission.