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How to Speak Truth without Being a Jerk

  • Rachel Dawson
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  • 2016 Sep 01
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Has anyone ever told you that you’re brutally honest? Or that you have no filter? Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling stung and wounded from the words that were said to you?

We know that words are powerful. We teach kids to “say something nice or say nothing at all,” but as we grow up, we sometimes forget to do that ourselves.

Lindsey Joy Holland recently wrote an article for Relevant called “Speaking Hard Truths Without Sounding Like a Jerk” where she shares just how impactful our delivery can be on our message.

When we read verses like Proverbs 12:18 that say “there is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,” we know what those words are and what they feel like. We also know that “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and that Proverbs 16:24 says “pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

We know we need to use our words wisely, we just don’t always do it.

“Throughout different encounters I remember realizing that the ones who had spoken to me in a blunt fashion left me feeling defeated,” Holland shares, “while the ones who said the same thing in a kind and thoughtful way left me feeling energized to improve myself.”

As Christians, our words are a powerful testimony to what is going on in our hearts. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

If we have accepted Jesus into our hearts and have given our lives to him, the words that we speak should reflect who he is. If we have decided to follow Christ, we are on the journey of getting to know him and love him better, and our words should glorify him.

Think back on those conversations where you were called brutally honest or unfiltered. Think back to those times when the words spoken to you were hurtful. What kinds of things were you hearing? As I think about it now, I can recall words that were negative, words that were critical, words that were blunt and judgmental, even if there was truth to them.

Speaking truth is a good thing, yes, but it’s best when it is done gracefully, humbly, and lovingly. There are many times where we do need to speak hard truths to a friend or family member, whether it’s about a circumstance, a behavior, a relationship rift, or something else, and those conversations can be hard to navigate.

There is a way to speak truth and to do so in a way that is constructive instead of destructive.

Holland gives us a great method that’s extremely helpful in framing how we share our opinions: the sandwich method.

“First you say positive things about the person, telling them what you appreciate about them and what you like. Next, for the sandwich filling, you kindly state something that you would appreciate being done differently. The last piece of the sandwich should once again be more kind and positive things. It allows the person is able to see—and hear—that the person criticizing genuinely appreciates and cares for them and that there are many more things about them that they like than that they dislike.”

Our ultimate goal as Christians is sharing the Gospel, and taking these verses and methods to heart as we engage with others will help whatever we say to reflect Christ and show his love, even if we are having hard conversations. We can speak bold truths in kind ways, and we can share the love of Jesus even when we aren’t specifically talking about him. We can fill our hearts with Scripture so it’s his words that come through us, and we can humble ourselves to speak graciously and with appreciation toward the people around us.

“We are either building up or tearing down in everything we do,” Holland says. “Are you on the construction gang, or on the wrecking crew?”

Let’s build each other up with our words, believers. Let’s speak out of the overflow of hearts that are full of love for Jesus and our neighbors.

How can you speak truth in love today?

Publication date: September 1, 2016

Rachel Dawson is the editor of