Sunday, August 23, 2015
some bad advice
Well, the last two days I've been saying that Job's friends were going to drop the ball. And today, they drop it.
Bildad the Shuhite (besides having a great name for making jokes) gives some of the worst advice possible in today's readings. He tells Job that Job's children died because God killed them because they were sinful.
It's hard to know where to start. First, telling someone who is grieving that God killed their lost loved one is a bad idea. Second, telling them that it was because they were sinful is an even worse idea. Even if it were true (and the text gives us no reason to think it was, and Bildad wasn't even there to know if it was), telling someone who is grieving that their children were killed by God for being sinful can only have bad results. It might turn the person against God. It might turn the person against the one giving the advice. It might make the person who is grieving fearful that God might strike them dead for doing something wrong. What it DOESN'T do is comfort them, give them anything useful to think about, or help them heal.
The lesson from today's reading, besides "don't be like Bildad", is to remember that speaking the truth is not enough in most situations. Let's pretend that what Bildad said was true, and Job's children DID live lives of debauchery and so God killed them. (It's hard to even imagine it, but let's pretend.) Even if it were true... telling someone the truth is not enough.
And that is useful in today's world, especially in our hyperconnected world online. Every day we can be involved in the lives of dozens, even hundreds of other people. And if we go around telling people what's true, without realizing what goes WITH the truth, then we are just going around hurting people.
The truth can be very painful. It can be hard to hear. It can even destroy you. That's why it's so important to speak the truth in LOVE. And there are times when it's best to keep the truth to ourselves. Does my friend's haircut make them look terrible? Maybe. Do I need to TELL them that? Probably not. I can focus on things that don't make them feel terrible. I can love them by keeping my thoughts about their haircut to myself.
Haircut is just one, small example. But there are so many others. If you see that your friend needs help, or advice, or even a wake up call... hitting them over the head with it in blunt, uncaring words will only drive them away from you and make them even less likely to listen and change.
The truth can be devastating, if not spoken in love.
God, remind me to speak Your truth in love.