Closely related to the question of manners from our last episode is the topic of honesty.
Every adult learns the reasonable limitations on honesty depend on one’s audience and subject. And speaking frankly, how honest we can afford to be in a given circumstance often depends on the power others possess to reward or punish us for what details are included or else left out in our communiques.
What passes for good manners all too often has more to do with what we can reasonably get away with saying. But we know that love rejoices with the truth, and this goes a long ways for the Christian in narrowing down with whom we associate most intimately.
By turns, the question of with whom we associate most intimately is a two-way street with who we come to understand we can or cannot be honest with. And this in turn has everything to do with who can be trusted with our vulnerabilities to cherish rather than tarnish us.
It is a fact of life in this fallen world filled with sinful people that not everyone is safe. Not everyone can be trusted to keep our secrets, or even to keep them in such a way that will build us up and protect us. And even those who can be trusted we must take with a grain of salt so long as we and them both continue on having two natures – one being sanctified more and more as we follow Christ, and the other still the sinful man or woman it ever was.
But honesty is about more than just what we do say. Vulnerability is comprised of the things we do not say because we do not need to say them, because they go without saying because we are seen and known and understood. And this is what is meant when we say that someone is considerate.
To a great extent then Christian community depends on the extent to which we are able to trust that others keep a store of grace regarding our imperfections. They know our flaws, and have set something aside for them in the way of patience, time, energy, and care.
All the same, before we can be honest with others we have to be honest with ourselves.
Is what we are endeavoring to communicate true and good and helpful, and is it necessary that we should say it?
If supposing the thing we want to say is all of these and more, can the person we want to tell be reasonably expected to bear it? And do they have a store of grace for our potential imperfections in saying this thing, or do we in turn have a store of grace for the potential imperfections in how they will respond however well we say what we mean to?
While there is always more to say on the matter, all of this at least also goes into a closer study of good manners and what it means to be polite.
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