2 Corinthians 2:4 (NIV)
4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
If you are a parent, a pastor, a team leader, an employer, or a manager of people, you know that sometimes there will be this tension between on one hand wanting to challenge the people you lead and on the other hand not wanting to be too hard or overbearing toward them. If you care about the people you lead, you will often ask yourself questions like: How can I lead these people and build them up without killing them or killing the relationship? How can I challenge them and when necessary rebuke or discipline them in a way where it builds them up, makes them stronger and where they know that what you do comes from a heart of love? When is it time to be heavy and when is it time to be light?
That is the tension Paul finds himself in in 2 Corinthians 2:1-11. Paul had written a letter to his church in Corinth (a letter which is probably now lost) where Paul addressed some difficult problems. We don't know the exact problem he was addressing, but it seems it had to do with someone in the congregation who needed to be rebuked and disciplined. That letter was really difficult for Paul to write. Paul says he experienced "great distress and anguish of heart" (v4) when he wrote that letter "with many tears". But he did it out of love for the people.
What can we learn from all this? Sometimes in relationships it's necessary to speak the truth in love, even when that truth is not easy to hear or easy to say. While it's not comfortable to speak the truth in love, or to hear it, sometimes it's the only way for the relationship to go from being unhealthy to healthy and from being stagnant to being able to grow again. As Paul writes in verse 3, Paul decided to speak the truth in love "so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice" (v3). In other words, rather than dancing around the issue, pretending there were no problems and causing the relationship to suffer in the process, Paul decided to speak the truth in love to his congregation.
Is there someone you need to speak the truth in love to? Here are 5 tips on how to speak the truth in love: we need to THINK before we speak. In other words, before you speak, ask yourself...
T - is it True? Is what I'm saying true? Do I have all my facts straight?
H - is it Hypocritical of me to say this? Is there anything in my life that disqualifies me from speaking on this issue? Is there anything I need to change about myself before I say anything?
I - does it Inspire the person if I say this? Is my goal to encourage that person and to build the relationship, or am I just complaining and tearing that person down?
N - is it Necessary? How big a deal is this really? What will happen if I don't say anything? Am I an appropriate person to say these things?
K - is it Kind? How can I say this in a way that the other person knows I am doing this in love and because I believe in them and in the relationship?
I pray that God would give you wisdom to know when you need to speak the truth in love and how to do so. Since the tongue has the power of life and death, may you use your words carefully to bring out the best in those around you.