My fabulous friend, Dar, sent me a message this week. It was a pep talk in the form of a text. It made my day. My whole week. And all she did was say what’s true.
Sometimes we need reminding of the truth. The facts, or more subtle realities, that we can stand on. Sometimes we can remind ourselves, and sometimes we need others to do the admonishing. When the truth is lost to us. Because life has us swirling outside of our ability to get perspective. And then we come across a perfectly applicable line in a novel, or hear lyrics to an honest and thoughtful song, or read a psalm that seems was written only for us. Or a friend texts with some good ol’ encouraging straight talk. And perspective is restored. At least for the moment.
Speaking truth in love is always recommended. It can be brutal, and therefore should be handed out only with good intention and a gentle touch. A month ago I received news that was hard to hear. It was true, and needed to be addressed, but it hurt. It was the brutal kind. At other times truth is the sweetest sound, raw and unfiltered. No careful delivery necessary. This is the kind of honesty I received from Dar on my iphone screen. Say what you want about technology ruining a generation’s ability to communicate, but I was glad for it on Wednesday. She, sitting in Los Angeles, sent me a message. I, sitting in Kansas, received it almost instantly and responded. And so forth. Five minutes was all it took and my head was turned in a new direction. I had something new to ponder, and firm ground to hold me up instead of the miry muck of fear I was walking around on.
There are some basic ingredients necessary in this whole speaking-the-truth-in-love thing. Starting with knowing what the heck you’re talking about. My friend and I have a history together. She met me when I was fresh off the U-haul from Kansas to L.A. and, admittedly, even less cool than I am now. And yet we became friends. She knew me when I felt like crap every day but didn’t know why or really want to admit it. We went through the roller coaster years of trying to have kids, having them, adopting them, me being insensitive, her being mad, us making up. And then I moved away and we knew we were in this thing for the long haul. Even from far away. Emailing, calling when we could, visiting, loving each other from afar. She has earned the right to speak the truth to me. She knows me, my past, my present, and I know I’m safe in her care. And she’s safe in mine. She can tell me hard things, or sweet things, and I can receive them because the source is reputable. The check out lady at Target could say the same thing and I’d know she was a nut job. You have to earn it.
You also have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. When to speak and when to zip it and just be. Sometimes the truth can wait. Until the person is ready to hear it, is open to that piece of reality. When someone is hurting, sometimes she needs to hurt for a while. To do the work, the push and pull of dealing with a mess. But a good truth-teller can wait, can sense the right moment to come in with some tough or lovely honesty to cast the person’s vision in a new light. And that person is priceless. That friend should be kept. Even if they live a thousand miles away.
That’s what smartphones are for.