Last week we enjoyed the SALT conference. I’ve said before it’s probably my favorite conference of the year. In addition to the great content, there is a tremendous opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded people. Not only did I meet some great new friends this year, I got to catch up with some old friends. One interaction in particular reminded me of something I haven’t thought about in a while; that is, the importance of having some people in your life you can be honest with.
The Christian Lie
One of my biggest frustrations about being involved with a mid- to large-sized church is that so often we lie to each other. Now, I’m not talking about lying about things like stealing, cheating on your wife, or being habitually in sin. What I’m referring to are the little lies that are usually precipitated by the question, “How are you?”
Now, you know what I’m talking about. There are two kinds of answers to that question—no, three kinds. I’ll come back to the third. The first answer is—of course—“Fine.” Or any variation thereof. We’re great; better than ever; busy, but good; hanging in; doing well; keeping on; whatever the phrase is in your town. To be sure, sometimes we really are great. In fact, for many of us, life really is good. Sure, there are small struggles, but overall, things are going in a positive direction and we are content. And that is truly great.
But sometimes, we’re not great. But we say we are. Correction, we lie and say we are. There is an unspoken rule in church that we need to be great, because if we’re not, there is clearly a problem with our faith. So to avoid the potential confrontation, we lie and say we’re fine. And too often, the person asking the question is also anything but fine, but they accept the lie because they don’t want to dig much below the surface.
The second way to answer the question is to start in a detailed description of every struggle in your life. We all know people like this. They have no filter. If they spilled their milk while getting their Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast, you’re going to hear about it. If their husband just left them, you will know all the details. We tend to avoid people like this. The challenge with these folks is they often don’t want any resolution or improvement in their lives, they just want you to know how hard their life is.
A Better Option
The better option is to be able to answer honestly, with the right amount of details for the level of relationship. Last week, an old friend, one who I spent a some time with in an encouragement group some years back asked me how I was doing. I was able to tell him of some of the joys and struggles of the last 12 months. While I didn’t go into all the details, we have enough of a relationship that I could share enough to get the point across. That prompted a very sincere and heartfelt prayer, right there in the lobby. Those kind of interactions are priceless.
Who Can You Be Honest With?
This brings me to my point; who can you truly be honest with? I have about 8-10 guys in my life that I can be really honest with. They know not only the good stuff I’ve experienced in the last 12 months, but the really hard stuff as well. When they ask me how I am, I can tell them honestly. And they get it because I can do the same for them.
We say this all the time, that it all comes down to relationships, but it really does. Working in a church can be one of the loneliest jobs because people assume that because you’re on a church staff, you have it all together. Most people never see the tears that happen just behind the veil. It is imperative that you find someone you can be honest with. Someone other than your spouse. You should be honest with them, but you need someone else, too. And it doesn’t matter if your on staff or not. We all need someone in our lives we can be honest with.