“Are you serious?” Often, we ask this question when we learn of something unbelievable or too good to be true. It’s meant to be asked rhetorically, but in light of recent tragedies in Charlottesville, Virginia, where violence ensued on a college campus with white nationalists chanting an anti-Semitic manifesto, it’s a legitimate question to ask each other these days. Is this our world’s definition of what it means to live out the truth?

Arguably, we’re the generation that most desires truth. We seek intimacy, authenticity and transparency in our relationships. In our 20s and 30s, we especially commend these qualities – wisdom, honesty, loyalty and courage. But often, we’re guilty of gossip, dishonesty, disloyalty and cowardliness. Over the years, I’ve identified some habits that have prevented others and myself from walking in truth, and I learned that these practices are signs of an insecure relationship with our parents and with God. Let’s explore what Scripture has to say about manipulation, self-victimization, avoidance and fear of man.

My hope is to help identify areas in our lives Jesus wants to heal. And my prayer is that this generation will take ownership of what it means to stand for truth and not fall for lies.

What Truth Is

What is the Biblical definition of truth? In Psalm 119:160, it says truth is the sum of our Creator’s word – it’s Scripture. Through the Bible, we learn of how the Trinity upholds truth. In the Old Testament, God made covenants as a promise to do what He says He’ll do. In the New Testament, Jesus not only affirms the sacredness of the law, but He also fulfills it. And in John 16, we read that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth.”

1. Manipulation

When we abide in God’s word, we know the truth. It sets us free from lies. Sometimes when we’re weak in our flesh, we don’t feed ourselves the word. Instead we believe in and tell half-truths. Manipulation is exactly that. We twist truth so it serves our interests.

Something I’ve learned in relationships with those I’ve come to trust is that we’re all self-serving. Even a well-meaning desire to “speak truth” into a person’s life could be coming from a place of pride, self-righteousness, bitterness, anger, selfishness and envy. When our heart goes unchecked, we become careless with our speech. The more we ignore instruction from the Word, the more we let our deceitful lips and untamed tongue slip.

If we’re on the receiving end of half-truths, we’re equipped to discern wisdom from foolishness. The Bible says wisdom that comes from heaven and is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Even if we believe we’re alone in our pursuit of godly truth in relationships that seem irreconcilable, remember peacemakers who sow peace reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17-18).

2. Self-Victimization

Know anyone who thinks anything that happens is never his or her fault? We’ve all made the case for why we deserve empathy and a right to get our way. When we’re unsuccessful in persuading someone to bend to our will, we forgo rational thinking. We make hasty generalizations that begin with extremities like “You always” or “You never.” Other times, we put the onus on the other to fix the situation or relationship.

The book of James gives insight into how we should respond when we don’t get what we want. He says we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger because “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” It’s hard to not let ourselves get angry when we feel wronged or misunderstood, but there are mature, peaceful and Biblical ways to deal with it instead of pulling out the victim card.

Self-victimization often involves guilt tripping and blame shifting to uphold our version of the truth. I’ve seen in firsthand when I was a small group leader. One of the hardest jobs of a leader is pointing people to truth. The handful of times I mustered the courage to do so, my hearers were indignant. Either I lacked tact or they didn’t want to hear it from me. Frankly, I’m not their mother or father. During these confrontations when people try to escape the conversation or deny responsibility, there’s been hurt from their own parents. Either we were lectured about the same things or they never really corrected us.

What if the next time we’re confronted or we confront someone, we learn to do so with love and let go of the deficit mentality that we’re owed something or we owe someone something?

Let the blood of Jesus speak a better word. The truth is, Jesus was the ultimate “victim,” but He refused to use the victim card to guilt trip humanity. On the cross, He pleaded with God to forgive the very people who crucified an innocent man.

3. Avoidance

If we don’t know why a friend, family member or co-worker isn’t receptive to hearing from us, it’s not so much that they’re avoiding us. They’re probably avoiding their emotions because obviously there’s been some hurt. Perhaps, they’re not ready to face their own offenses. Depending on the situation, leave the door open for reconciliation.

If we’re the person who just can’t hear it from whoever upset or offended us, He is gracious and compassionate. In our desire to self-preserve and banish others from our presence, He will never leave us. And unlike our temperament, He is slow to anger and rich in love. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we become more like Him.

Though I’m no reconciliation expert, I’ve found that it’s worth a try to extend an olive branch – whether through a written note, text message or call – and describe how I’ve been feeling, never putting people in the position of thinking they need to explain themselves to me.

Trying to talk to someone who clearly doesn’t want to talk is toxic, so timing is crucial.

We’ll know when it’s the right time to engage because God will have softened the other person’s heart. Don’t be discouraged if it’s taking awhile. He is doing a mighty work of healing in the person you’re praying for. Be prepared for a miracle.

If we’re the one who is avoiding or disengaging, it’s helpful to first come before God and ask Him to search our hearts and reveal any offensive way in us. Even if we don’t feel like responding to those who have offended us, know that we must answer to God. The hope is that when we confront our own restlessness, we realize we don’t have to stew in our bitter, unsettled feelings. Instead, Jesus wants to heal our heart and make it whole.

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4. Fear

You and I have an innate desire to be in securely attached relationships. But at an early age, our relationships with our earliest attachments – parents or guardians – may have been insecure. These experiences affect our ability to trust and put confidence in others.

Let me explain. Growing up with parents who weren’t committed to their marriage, I didn’t see many examples of secure relationships. I thought to myself the best way to minimize potential damage in relationships is to never offend anyone and to do exactly what I’m told. For that reason, I kept superficial relationships with people, even family.

Interestingly enough, my fear of man and desire to people please also led me to make hasty commitments and empty promises that I later regret. I understood what Proverbs 20:25 meant when the Psalmist said an impulsive vow is a trap. We’ll wish we could get out of them. And it’s so true. We face the repercussions of broken commitments. But by God’s grace, we stand unashamed and ready to recommit to honoring His word of truth.

Our generation lacks commitment to the truth. But that’s a call for believers to seek truth and walk in the counsel of wisdom through His word. Each time we boldly approach His throne of grace, we’re securely met with His love and empowered to live out the truth. Do you walk closely with godly men and women who are growing a mature relationship with Christ? What relationships are and aren’t serving your commitment to the truth?