A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker refer to “10% friends.” He explained that most of us are willing to talk about 90% of how we are, and that we are willing to receive information about the same things we are willing to share. Topics that hover on the surface of everyday life and are generally safe. It might be a compliment we received on last night’s dinner, our upcoming vacation plans, or the details of a current project at work. This information is framed around content that is comfortable and affirming.
But the remaining 10%, he explained, is comprised of the hard things we are not willing to share or hear others point out. He said we all need to have, and should aim to be, part of the 10% who speak and seek to hear the Truth. I turned around to my friend and smiling said, “You’re welcome, for I am part of your 10%!” We both chuckled.
My friend and I both acknowledge we need Truth from outside of ourselves to check our own version. Because there is Truth, and there is what we hold as truth. And they are not always the same. We are, after all, finite and fallible. Therefore, we need what is forever and infallible. Those attributes are not found in humanity, but in its Maker and the words recorded for us in the Bible.
Seeking the Truth
There is something comforting about Truth. While it can be hard at times, it’s also stable. It is not contingent on my own agreement or emotions. What is True is true, with or without me. It does not need my endorsement or my permission to be true. When we lie, or when truth is absent from a situation, it does not cease being itself. It remains, well… Truth.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was martyred by the Nazis, wrote: “No man in the whole world can change the truth. One can only look for the truth, find it and serve it. The truth is in all places.” That wording in the last part lingers in my mind, “One can only look for the truth, find it and serve it.” This means we submit to it.
In a noisy world filled with competing perspectives on everything, whatever our truth is (that is, our go-to, uncontested knowledge) will determine much of our emotions and our actions. The danger, then, is when we are holding onto our own version of truth. When we do that, we are in essence idolizing a part of ourselves. If the definition comes from our own reasoning, then we are really just serving ourselves.
For me, this begs the question: in our actions, in the way we think about ourselves and the way we view others, what are we upholding as the standard? What we listen to in our minds – those narratives that go uncontested, unchallenged, and unaltered, because they are what we know – is it Truth?
Telling the Truth
In the case of my friend and me, we are both believers. The Truth we speak into each other’s lives is not our own. We both understand that what we need is not something we muster on our own, but something we receive from outside of ourselves and our cultural context. Something we must continually seek, welcome, and apply. So, we look for it – in God’s Word, in God’s people, in the traces of it that exist all around through His work.
We often hesitate to give someone permission to speak into the tender areas of our heart. We’d rather keep things to ourselves or have an echo chamber of agreement to all our thoughts and feelings. However, it’s not only beneficial, but also life-giving to have (and be) the kind of friend who lovingly brings to the table the words that others fearfully withhold or simply ignore. Let’s face it: we hardly ever have 20/20 vision when it comes to our own lives. We need trusted friends to bring Jesus into the narratives we’ve got running through our emotions.
We often dread the Truth, expecting it will bear bad news or make us feel bad. In reality, because it is unchanging, Truth is solid. It anchors us and steadies our course. Think of an unknown diagnosis that we are waiting for, unsure of how our life will change. We’re frightened when we hear the doctor speak words that are hard to pronounce or are only too familiar because it runs in our family tree.
But when Truth is brought to light, it equips us to move forward. With it, we can see. Without it, we’re blind. A correct diagnosis sheds light on our before unknown maladies, and prepares us to pursue a treatment plan. Even when the news is hard, Truth gives us the knowledge and strength to push forward in trust and hope.
Dwelling in the Truth
When navigating hard emotions, confusion, or hurt from others, we ought to ask ourselves if the root of what we are thinking is grounded on Truth. Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6 ESV). The context of this often-quoted line is actually part of a conversation between Jesus and His disciples, during which He asks them to not be distressed or discouraged, but instead to believe in Him. He then goes on to say He’s going to make a place for them and that they know the way.
He was preparing them for His imminent departure from their midst when He’d be crucified, resurrected, and lifted up to heaven. He was outlining for them His purpose: “I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:4 ESV). Thomas then asks, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5 ESV)
Oh, but you do know, Thomas, and so do we. When Jesus replies that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He is saying to everyone that He is the Truth we need to uphold. That knowing Him is the most important knowing we need to seek, cultivate, and dwell in. That such knowing is a matter of life or death.
So much rests on what we know. That pack of thoughts clasped together as certitude, safely housed in our brains, determines so much of how we see ourselves and the world at large. For those of us living in the West, in North American culture especially, knowledge is power. What we know determines how influential we can be and how vocal and confident we are with it. And it becomes deeply ingrained as our truth.
The question is, does our truth set us free? Does it make a way for us and give us life? Or does it keep us stagnate, dependent on it, and subservient to it?
Filter your thoughts and feelings through the words of Jesus. Hold the narratives that run deep through your mind against the words recorded in Scripture. Pray for wisdom to discern and humility to receive and speak Truth. The greatest service we can render to ourselves and others is to dwell in the truth made available to us through God’s Word.