About the Author

Annie F. Downs is a bestselling author and nationally known speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her most recent books include 100 Days to Brave, Looking for Lovely and Let’s All Be Brave. Read more at anniefdowns.com and follow her at @anniefdowns.

Related Posts

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. How blessed you were to have that back-up conversation … most people don’t have that option and add the toxic remarks to the collection of burdens they’re carrying. More shame, more guilt, more condemnation.

    Oh … for more people who can speak what’s true, but do it with love, kindness, and compassion.

  2. “wrap the truth in kindness, compassion, and care.” Oh thank you for this. So often we just blast out the truth and don’t think to heal the wounds it makes by applying the balm of kindness, compassion and care.

  3. Oh how constructive criticism stings….especially done in a way that confirms “failure”.
    Praise the Lord for the BALCONY people in our lives. {the ones who pull us up}
    Everybody needs to know the truth, but no one needs to be crushed.
    Great post.

  4. Timely post. We all need to be reminded of this. My experience lately has been that love is a perception. And when the person hearing the much needed truth doesn’t want to hear the much needed truth, the perception is often that it’s not being said in love. I’ve had my share of truth saying without love. I know when I’ve been wrong and not loving enough in my sharing. But lately, I’ve known without a doubt that how I said the truth and my hearts intent were truly rooted in love. And yet the hearer wanted nothing to do with the truth. Somtimes, maybe, I’m just thinking here…sometimes, maybe, its our own rejection of the truth that makes us lash out and feel unloved. Maybe what feels like not being loved is actually the cleansing power of truth on a wound that needs to be cleaned out before the balm of love can be applied. I know you can clean a wound in a brutal or kind way. I understand it does happen. For me, I know I’ve let my pride say I wasn’t love when truth was told to me because I didn’t want to hear it. Especially the first time. By the time I was hearing it again and even again, I began to soften to the realization that the first person was right. And the first person who spoke the truth to me loved me more than having to pull the truth out of a friend. The first person risked our relationship to speak the truth. The second person wouldn’t have told me the truth unless I asked. Just some thoughts. I think it’s a good discussion and matter to think about. Sometimes its just messy and speaking the truth in love is risky and often not received with the love that is truly behind it.

    • I agree with your post Christy. It’s never easy to hear negative things about yourself no matter how they’re packaged. And sometimes we won’t hear what is spoken softly- we need it “in our faces” in order to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes confrontations like this serve as a strong wake up call. I got mine last July, so I speak from experience. Boy did it hurt, but boy was it needed! Jesus himself used strong language when the situation called for it.

  5. Wonderful post! Speak in love — what an important lesson, but so hard to do when one wants to get the point across.
    Betty, also selfish (and will always remember her mother telling her when she was a child that that was the reason they never had another child)

  6. Beautiful post! We all need to learn to gently & with loving care judge others, but not without first judging ourselves.

  7. It’s so true that the truth in love has so much power. In my own human woundedness sometimes I’m unable to receive the love that comes with a criticism or correction. However, with time and continued relationship, the message becomes more real, that I am loved in spite of my faults. Because of love, my faults are worth working on and working out.

    Thank you for sharing, for the reminder of the power of words and of love.

  8. Bingo! “But for the announcement to be made in judgement and not in love – that’s where he missed the mark.” How many times have people walked away or even ran away from church because of this?
    Oh if so many others had a “Pastor Tom” to remind them who they really are in Christ.

  9. Annie,
    This is so well expressed–the contrast between someone who speaks the truth AT you, swinging it like a club that jars your teeth loose, and someone who comes discreetly to you and hands you a mirror so you can see the piece of spinach caught in your teeth. One does damage, one helps you take care of a problem you couldn’t see by yourself.

    My son has experienced this so often, usually in the form of some (hopefully) well-intentioned leader-type who invites him out for coffee (a pretense) and then proceeds to say, “I’d like to mentor you.” RUDE!! The problem is, too often the people who like to hold themselves out as these so-called “mentors” or “truth-tellers,” are coming from a place of their own pride, and/or without the foundation of real relationship that gives them the “right” to tell him the kind of “truth” they think they are compelled to deliver. Damage and alienation are all they leave in their wake.

    Bless your pastor for being a real brother to you when the leader-type missed the mark.

    • Interesting. My husband and I helped lead the youth at our old church for 5 years. My husband was asked (and rather reluctantly agreed) to mentor students – by the students themselves. My husband is humble and felt there were better people to mentor the kids, but I know that his love for the Lord and his relationship with the students was exactly what was needed.

      It sounds like the youth leaders in your son’s life have been trying to do the right thing thinking that is one of the things that youth leaders should do – but going about it all the wrong way (with maybe a dash of immaturity thrown in). 🙂

  10. Oh for more conversations that smell like Jesus. Like when Our Lord chased away the angry mob and then with perfect timing, spoke to the wounded and bleeding “woman caught in adultery”.

    He knew that to approach the bird too quickly – it flies – the deer bolts. This moment would have been stilled like waves on a sea. Maybe a silent miracle this time. Our Lord would have waited for her faint heartbeat to grow stronger before he would draw near.

    And then…only then…would come quiet words, meant for one set of ears.

    “Where are you accusers – go and avoid this sin.”

    Thank you for this Annie

    God Bless and Keep You and Yours

  11. I love it…
    “The conversation smelled like Jesus…” I love those conversations and long for more of them in my life.
    Bless you, Annie, and thank you for this.

  12. Don’t you think that when “truth” is spoken in judgment instead of love, that the person speaking it is being selfish? They are withholding grace and compassion from you instead of building you up and encouraging you to do/be better.

    God always speaks truth to us blanketed with love and forgiveness and mercy.

  13. Just reading that post pains me. How awful to be confronted in that way. I find that this usually comes from people who feel that they have the “gift of prophecy” and therefore must exercise their gift in an authoritative manner. I am sorry that you experienced this, but thankful that you had the presence of mind to go to Pastor Tom. Sounds like a very wonderful and godly man. Way to take something bitter and make yourself better. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Annie —

    Thank you for sharing these experiences in such rich detail.

    I’ve encountered a number of well-meaning individuals who believe God placed them on the earth to point out the sins of others.

    One was an evangelist who chose, one night, to preach against “cheap grace.” In a thundering voice he bellowed, “You’ve heard that God loves you just the way you are. But I am telling you right now that He. Does. NOT!”

    My adult brain comprehended where he was going, but the five year old in my heart began to weep uncontrollably because the manner and the timing of the message were all wrong.

    Later that evening, I was told–by another sin-detector–that I was the only one present who had felt that way. Really? Out of 5,000 people I was the only one?

    Unfortunately, my experiences have led me to hold my tongue completely even when I should speak the truth. I am so afraid of telling a non-truth by ruing the message through my manner and/or my timing that I never speak. Your post reminds me of the necessity to be prayerful and careful but admonishes me to speak when I must.

  15. loved this post!! i had the same thing happen once … and it made me doubt myself and my spiritual walk. i don’t think that either of those needed to be doubted and we are all just sinners in need of God’s grace. i guess even spiritual leaders need to be reminded of that. 🙂

  16. I can’t understand how some people thing that they are obeying Christ by speaking harshly. Do they really think it is going to have a positive impact? I’m sorry that happened to you (my eyes were stinging as I read …) but thankful that God poured grace back into you that day. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Annie,

    I’m sad to say that I’ve been on both ends of that conversation. Just last year I was selfishly pushing someone super close to me to get better physically, have more faith, be stronger through her trials RIGHT NOW so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress and emotional exhaustion of seeing her go through a tough situation with pain and suffering and doubt. Seriously… talk about selfishness on my part!

    How humbling it was when Jesus reminded me that He gave me all the grace, love, and room to be imperfect when I myself was sick. And how humbling it was to realize that He wasn’t asking me to shoulder any burden from anyone’s difficult situation but to just share His love with them. And wouldn’t you know it, He came in and healed this person and restored her in a way only Jesus can do.

    I think sometimes as Christians we forget that it’s not our role to mold someone into perfection. It’s our role to love them as God’s loved us, lift them up to Him in prayer, and watch Him do all the molding that needs done. I’m so glad you have a Pastor Tom in your life to do just that, because let’s be real… we’re all a little selfish and Jesus knew that when He fell in love with us anyway.

  18. “Truth in love changes people.”

    Oh girl, this is da bomb diggedy. I am reminded to choose my words carefully AND to have heart ears when it’s my turn to receive the truth in love.

    I am beyond thankful every time you unselfishly share your words here. How you must make Him smile!

  19. Beautiful words Annie. Thank you for speaking truth and love and sharing your heart. I’ve been there on that end. Both covered in love and then times not. It can be so hard. Your words are a gift. Thank you for sharing.

    Cole

  20. Thankfully I have more of the latter than the former, but, and here’s a big but, the people in my life who speak words of truth through condemnation are my parents, plus my sister. Talk about a double whammy! Of anyone, those people I should trust, but can’t. Thank God for my friends out east and my friends here who unflinchingly love me for who I am not what they want me to be and do. The closer I get to Jesus the clearer and clearer that truth is to me. Love does not equal condemnation, no matter how pretty the paper it’s wrapped in. Thank you Annie for reminding us of this truth. Thank God I have people to go to when I feel rotten and when I feel good and they love me just the same. Thank you Jesus!

  21. This post goes so well with something else I was just reading this morning about love being kind, and proactively seeking ways to show that. One piece of it was exactly what your Pastor Tom did – speaking the truth, but in love, in kindness. I think this is something I struggle to remember to do with my husband, despite the fact that when I read this story or experience something similar, I’m quick to see how not-in-love those actions are. A good reminder for me to watch how I “rebuke,” too. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Enjoyed your post, thank you for sharing. Every since I was young I have always been able to learn from the pain I see around me or experienced first hand and that is what I read in your post. Perspective adds an interesting dimension to communication, great job of standing in your truth, using this as a lesson for growth as I am sure it was intended and instead of harboring negativity seeing and focusing on the message/lesson/opportunity. Follow your path of bliss. Melody

  23. This was such a good post. Too many times we “give counsel” with condemnation instead of love. It’s so important to give counsel in love.