Sometimes the words come out in slow motion but feel like they are coming out quickly and you know that what you are going to say is going to hurt the person you are speaking with but you have to say it anyway because what you are going to say is the truth and saying anything else would be a lie and you care about the person way too much to lie to them and you don’t want to say it but you are backed into a corner and there is no other choice but to go ahead and blurt it out and deal with the consequences later.
Sometimes it’s not several words that come out like this. Sometimes it’s just one.
I didn’t date much before I got married. Having a face that looks like mine combined with a shyness about actually speaking to real-live females kept me from it. How did I wind up married? Kristy found the best man she could…and when he wouldn’t marry her she came to me. This is not altogether true, but close enough to the truth to sound true. And my Forrest Gump impersonation rocked her world. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.
The relationships that I had before marriage didn’t always end well. It wasn’t always primarily my fault. It always hurt.
We had been dating for a few months; how many is fuzzy in my memory. She was a sweet young lady and I remember enjoying the time that we spent together. Here family was nice, too; no serial killers or cannibals in the bunch. At least I didn’t think there were any. One of them did always seem to offer me more food than the others ate, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t trying to fatten me up in hopes of eating me later. I guess I’ll never know.
Our relationship was progressing quite smoothly, which I knew meant only one thing. At some point we were going to talk about the “L” word. No, not liposuction. I wasn’t to far removed from my basketball playing days, thus I wasn’t really overweight. You know what I’m talking about: LOVE.
I didn’t want to talk about it, though. Not because I’m against love, but because I knew I didn’t feel that way about her. Plus I had been reading about Truth; discerning it, listening for it, telling it. It’s that last one that I knew would cause me problems. If we talked about love I would have to tell her the truth. So I did what any normal male learns to do at a very young age. I avoided it.
This worked. For a while. The thing about successfully avoiding something for a decent period of time is that you quickly forget to keep your guard up against it. This is how it all started going south the day that our relationship ended.
I was leaving her house after spending a few hours with her and she followed me out to my car. As we embraced, she looked up at me and said, “I love you.” I remember the distinct feeling of my heart skipping a beat and my eyes growing rounder. How did this happen? Why didn’t I see it coming? I didn’t know what to say or do. Once you’re older than seven, you can’t very well say “Hey look, a unicorn!” to divert someone’s attention. Believe me, I’ve tried.
So I didn’t say anything. This maneuver failed. She looked up again and said, “Did you hear me? I said I love you.” I couldn’t lie and I was backed into a corner. I had to say something and there was only one thing I could think of to say. The word came out in slow motion, but so fast that I was powerless to stop it.
I look down into her expectant eyes and said, “Thanks.” That’s it. Thanks. No explanation. No other words. Nothing else would come out. I felt light-headed and unsure. It was not a good moment. It got worse as she took a staggered step back and I got into my car and left. We broke up by phone later that evening.
Justifying something like this seems like it would be easy. I wasn’t ready for love and I couldn’t lie. The truth must be told even when it hurts. It wasn’t that easy, though. And it was because I mishandled the situation terribly.
Truth is important, but so is grace. I could have told her the truth in such a way that didn’t leave her with such a bad scar. Explaining why I couldn’t reciprocate her feelings at that particular time may have been more difficult for me, but much better for her. I had to tell the truth, but I didn’t have to be such a jerk about it.
I understand this now, even though I don’t always act like it. It seems that I am not alone in this quandary. It can be messy. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do better.
Telling the truth is great. Telling it while being full of grace and tenderness is better. I’m glad I know this now. I wish that I knew this then. We can’t change the past, but we can improve in the present and vow to be much better in the future.
And that’s the truth.
(Have you ever messed up royally while telling the truth? Has anyone messed up while telling you the truth? Share away.)