Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tone and Truth

Tone. Tone. Tone. This is what people complain to us about again and again when they can't think of why something we say is really bothering them. How important is the tone in which you communicate something really important? At some point does it make any difference? For example, who cares about the tone when someone is yelling "LOOK OUT!" or "FIRE!" We submit that complaining about someone's tone is just an excuse to resist the truth.

It's true that when we feel prompted to persuade or teach or testify of something we know to be right and true, we have to be careful to modify our communications to fit the audience. We never want to disrespect anyone as who they are: a perfectly loved child of God. We never want to have any unkind feelings toward others no matter how they react. This is difficult but with practice we can get better at it.

A problem occurs when what you share is met with resistance no matter what tone you use. Sometimes there is so much emotion, fear, pain, and/or pride pushing against what you are saying that the hearer will perceive what you say, no matter how you say it, as contentious, upsetting, unkind, offensive, ignorant, or hateful. As a friend put it, truth is hate to people who hate truth. This definitely happens. We have talked to people, individually or in groups, in the most measured, soft, calm and loving way and have been met with trembling  rage. We have been ordered out of offices, stalked away from, laughed at, sneered at, censured, threatened,  shunned, and called every name imaginable. Indeed, at times when our body language, voice, and heart have been most indicative of love for people, they have hated us most. It's amazing how threatening the truth can be to people even when it comes from the likes of us hobbits. 

This is not to say that our tone is always soft, calm, measured, and loving, although this doesn't happen in public. We get frustrated at times. Sometimes we let things overcomus, which is wrong. Like the prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon showed when he prayed he wouldn't stumble because of his overanxiety for the people, we have to repent when we let discouragement overwhelm us. It is evidence of lack of faith, even of idolatry. We must return to the peace we can get from God alone, pick ourselves up, apologize, radiate love, and carry on.  We find it has to be a conscious choice to allow the Spirit to replace the frustration.

And then there are times when some degree of righteous indignation is altogether proper. Sometimes people have to know how bad something is. There has to be passion, even some outrage perhaps. But we have to be sure that the sword of truth being wielded is something completely separate from the charity that is required. No bitterness, nothing personal, just love. Jesus taught us how to do this. We can practice and get better at it.

Sad to say, we have found that those who complain of our "tone" here at  SoL are  using that as an excuse to not fully embrace reality and truth. They feel more comfortable sitting on the fence. Well, sorry, tone and truth have really nothing to do with each other. It's like killing the messenger because you don't like the way they are relaying the message. This is of course more about the hearer than the messenger. Mature people look beyond the presentation, beyond appearances, and see the light of truth.We may prefer to listen to some more than others just because of tone, personality, word choice, etc., but our real concern should be about whether what they are saying is true or not.

We have found that when it comes to the emotionally and politically charged issues we deal with at Standard of Liberty, it actually doesn't matter how we say anything anymore. As carefully and kindly as we continually try to put things, without compromising reality and goodness, we are censured by some and hated by some. In wicked times it doesn't take much truth at all to make people anything from uncomfortable to very, very mad.

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