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Honesty Cannot Save Our Relationships, and Neither Can a “Filter”

April 14, 2016


If there is a value that is trumpeted by my generation, it is honesty. No hiding behind masks or carefully constructed personas.  Be yourself.

Indeed, honesty is an important virtue. Relationships can crumble if we pretend to be something that we aren’t. Eventually we fall apart if we try to hide our problems.

And yet we enter the adult world, the working world, which does not operate so well if anyone and everyone is bearing their souls. Our souls are chaotic. So we must be professional.  And we must put a filter on it. We can still be honest sometimes, but we have to filter our words and only say that which is most helpful and won’t have serious repercussions.

The filter tends to deconstruct once we are back at home, wherever that may be- with our spouses and children, with our parents and siblings, with our roommates, even our friends. They bear the full brunt of our souls, our hearts. Honesty helps many situations, but alone it cannot save our relationships. Often it is the content of our hearts that does damage. Yes, we are hurting and/or passionate about justice, and that is legitimate, but that is not all that flows from the heart. Selfishness. Pride. Greed. Impatience. Foolishness. And more. Once we let it out, it is hard or impossible to reel it back in.

So we try to use the filter at home, just enough to survive. But the filter is fragile. It is very fragile under the force of the heart.

The biblical writer James had something to say about this. I have always felt convicted by the first part of chapter three, which speaks of the dangers of the tongue.  The tongue is kind of like a filter. We may think or feel something, but the tongue may or may not articulate it.

The problem with modern chapters and headings in the Bible is that we often miss the connection between parts.  In verse 8, James says that the tongue cannot be tamed, and that it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. He then goes on to condemn the tongue that both praises God and curses people, and uses a few analogies to strengthen his point.  Then, in the English Standard Version, that section is over.  But there is no hope in this section.  If we cannot tame the tongue, what hope is there for our relationships? But James is not done with this topic, even though he doesn’t use the word “tongue” again.

The hope starts to come in the next section. The key is the content of our hearts. Verses 13-18 say:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Chapter Four continues to give hope. Verses 6-10 encourage us:

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

God’s Word indicates that honesty and filtering are not enough for relational and inner peace. They help, but we need to dig deeper. We must deal with our hearts. We must humble ourselves, trusting God. Jesus himself said, “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

For me, this means forgiving my kids and not allowing frustrations to build up in my heart. It means respecting authority and my elders inwardly. It means taking hateful thoughts “captive to Christ” instead of “venting” them with my husband.

In my (relatively young) life I can look back on countless situations where I have said things I regret. Some of these situations are recent, other are old. Some statements are calculated, others come out of my mouth before I can think. I always promise myself, when I realize my wrong, that I won’t do that again. You can only guess how many times I’ve broken that promise. Some statements have been rooted in innocent stupidity, but many more have been rooted in a desire to promote myself or control circumstances. They have not been rooted in trusting God.

But, praise the Lord, “he gives more grace.” And he gives us new, humble, pliable souls. This was not merely the idea of New Testament writers. The Old Testament prophets spoke of it. (i.e. Jeremiah 24:7 and Ezekiel 36:26)

I have been practicing this song on the piano lately, and it has been good for my soul. Lord, purify my heart.

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within

(Brian Doerksen)

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 14, 2016 9:11 pm

    A needed teaching for me today. Especially the part about how the grace in James follows after the conviction regarding the use of the tongue. Thanks, Ned

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