Teaching our Kids to Speak Truth in Love

In today’s society where opponents on issues are prone to half-truths, lies, mean-spirited arguments and cunning personal insults, speaking truth in love seems to have been discarded as old-fashioned politeness. But speaking truth from a posture of love is an important three-fold skill we need to teach our children. And its roots are in the Bible. Jesus said in the gospel of John: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

But what does that look like when teaching our children to speak truth in love?

First, kids have to know what the truth is. Second, they have to be clear on what love is. Lastly, they have to be prepared to communicate truth with a posture of love. This is easier said than done. In a letter to his young protege, Timothy, the Apostle Paul said, “..the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

What is Truth?

Recognizing truth can be tricky for our kids. Relativism has permeated our world. Relativism is the alluring false teaching that everyone gets to choose their own truth, which is confusing. It claims that “what is right for you is right for you,” and “what is right for me is right for me,” even if they are two opposing claims of the truth. But, there is no “your” or “my” truth — there is only one truth. A friend of mine shared a great illustration of this. A group of teenagers are camping in the woods, and they eventually want to head home. Home is north. But which way is north? One teen’s truth is to head south, another teen’s truth is to head east. And still another teen’s truth is to head west. But there was only one true path — where the compass pointed to the true north. North wasn’t a feeling, it was fact. The other teens would have been hopelessly lost if they listened to their own truth.

According to Pew research, Americans admit they at times have trouble distinguishing the truth from falsehood from certain sources. For example, nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults say it is hard to tell the difference between what’s true and what’s not true when listening to elected officials. Christians believe the Bible points us to absolute truth through Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  We need to fill our children with God’s Word so that they can recognize truth and reject the toxic practice of relativism.

What is Love?

Our kids need to know what love is and isn’t before they can use it to speak truth. The world’s definition of love is in contrast to God’s definition of love. The world calls love a feeling, a physical attraction, or sex. The world also mistakes love as infatuation. Today, the definition of love has even morphed into agreeing with someone at all costs, even if their points are based on falsehoods. Again, this is not love. God defines love as an action of serving and surrendering, of putting others first above ourselves. God showed as His greatest example of this in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

1 Corinthians describes what love looks like beautifully: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Communicate Truth with a Posture of Love

So, how do we teach our children to put truth and love together when speaking it to others? Careful and thoughtful preparation for the conversation shows great love. Here are a few key questions to discuss with your child:

  • What is the truth that needs to be shared? Why? 
  • Am I the right person in their life to speak this truth?
  • What benefits or consequences could this conversation have?
  • What happens if I don’t have this conversation?
  • What is the best time or place to have the conversation?
  • Should someone accompany me?
  • Am I approaching this person with a posture that will show them great love – am I patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, honoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not keeping records of wrongs, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hopeful, persevering?

Finally, after working through those questions, share with your child encouragement that they are doing the right thing. We all want to be told which way is the true north — especially if we are lost in the woods so we can get home. That’s the essence of speaking truth in love. And our world needs more conversations like these.

If you want to hear more on this topic, check out this podcast.

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Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you…Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road…Deuteronomy 6:5-7