When I agreed to write a book documenting my attempt to live without a lie for an entire year, my wife just grinned and asked, “How’s the soup?”
“Very good,” I lied.
“No, it isn’t,” she said. “You’ve hardly touched it.” Then she had the nerve to ask, “You wanna go to Mom’s for dinner tomorrow night?”
I paused and said, “Nope.”
It would be a long year. Did I manage to make it without a lie? Not even close. But here are some lessons I learned that made it one of the most enlightening years of my life:
Consider your response. James 1:19 instructs us to be “slow to speak.” Pausing to think before talking gives you a chance to choose words carefully or choose not to speak at all. But sometimes, a delayed response is dangerous. For example, when our wives subject us to the world’s most unfair question: “Do the horizontal stripes on this outfit make me look . . . um . . . fat?”
Gentle diversionary tactics prepared in advance are a lifesaver. This response can work wonders: “You look fantastic, babe! Let’s go out for cheesecake.”
Keep it positive. Early in our marriage, I gave little thought to the effect my words might have. Out for a walk, we spotted some cows. Remembering an old joke, I asked, “Relatives of yours?”
“Yup,” she replied. “In-laws.”
With time, we learned that words can make or break a marriage. I now employ roughly 73 positive comments for every mild critique. And when a concern or need to confront arises, I use the acrostic THINK. Is it true? Is it helpful? Will it inspire her? Is it necessary? Am I kind about it?
Be the real deal. In a Hong Kong market, a vendor tried to sell us a “copy watch” by yelling, “I have fake, fake fake and genuine fake.” My wife is most receptive to criticism when I’m genuine, humble and gracious — not any kind of fake. And if I withhold the truth, it’s not because I’m doing something underhanded.
On the afternoon that my year of living honestly ended, my wife said something startling: “I like the more honest you.” Perhaps she meant that I’m a little further down the road of walking with integrity. I’ve learned that truth without love is cruel; love without truth is cowardly.
Humorist Phil Callaway is the author of To Be Perfectly Honest.
This article appeared in the August/September 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2013 by Phil Callaway. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.