Recently I was part of a decision that impacted several people who I do not know personally. I knew that making this decision would create large amounts of feedback and criticism from a few people. During this process, I have heard numerous stories and had several questions asked that I found both humorous and sad. This has led me to the conclusion that the real truth is hard to find.
1. The truth is not one person’s experience. Every story needs a corroborating witness. The Bible made people establish everything on two or three witnesses. There is a wisdom in this type of thinking. Each of us tends to remember events selectively. Therefore, one person telling a story of what happened is not always the real truth.
2. The truth is not my feelings about what happened. Each one of us has the tendency to interject our own feelings into a story. What we saw made us mad so we tell a story with anger and interject evil intent. Our experience is deeply connected to our emotions and sometimes it is hard to separate the two. Again, this is why multiple witnesses are important. Quite often it is important to hear both sides of the story.
3. My opinions on the story are not facts. One thing I heard recently was, “This is what happened and if you ask me, this is what was really going on.” When I heard this statement made and listened to their opinion I realized they could not be further from the truth. Our opinions are shaped very much by our experience and therefore most of my thoughts are clouded. I am not saying your opinions are always wrong, I am saying they do not always align with the facts.
4. Finding the real truth takes time and hard work. If I want to know the whole story I need to talk to multiple people who were involved. I need to read information on my own. I need to listen closely for interjected feelings and opinions. I need to ask if the person telling the story has a bias. There are several steps that need to be taken to understand the truth of what happened.
The real truth is very hard to discern.
Unfortunately, we live in a world of one line twitter feeds, emotional Facebook posts and biased internet stories. Texts are sent with partial truth. Emails are shared that only tell one side of a story. Conversations are accepted as total truth without question.
None of these are wise ways to handle information.
That is why the Bible is adamant that Jesus followers are to avoid gossip and slander. Six times the book of Proverbs warns against gossip. Paul lists gossip and slander along with other sins in 2 Corinthians 12:20 and Romans 1:29. 1 Timothy 5:13 refers to gossips who are “saying things they ought not to say.” Slander is mentioned 27 times in the Bible including Titus 3:2 which says we are to “slander no one.”
As believers, we need to be extremely cautious about the stories we tell. We may think we are doing a service when in fact we are doing harm. The hard reality is that the real truth may be far from our lips.
So when you hear that juicy negative story that makes you feel something deeply and you want to run out and share it with the world – please, for the sake of Jesus, keep your mouth shut.