I tell the truth, but not always the whole truth

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We choose the stories we tell.

Earlier today, I told the story of the birth of my 3rd child. It took 11 days from the time I was first admitted to the Birth Center in active labor until my baby was finally born. I told about how my labor had stalled, how I felt I had “fallen between the cracks” of care in my health team, of how I was passed off from one person to another and treated with suspicion by each “new” care-giver who hadn’t met me before. It was a terrible few days, and in telling it I felt the despair, frustration and anger of the debacle all over again.

Later, I realized I could have told the story differently. The story of my 3rd baby’s birth is also the story of the most wonderful delivery imaginable: a water birth, with my husband and Mom present. It was calm, worshipful and completely relaxed, and we celebrated the (dare I even say it?) pain-free arrival of an almost 11lb baby with no drugs, and no screaming either. Now that’s a good story!

Both stories are true. I had a horrendous fortnight, and then a sacred and perfect final two hours of delivery. Is it truth to tell just the bad story without the good part? Is it truth to just tell of the awesome delivery without the bad that came before?

We choose the stories we tell. We select the parts we want to highlight, we arrange them for the telling.


I think we sometimes have a mistaken idea that honesty in relationships means we should always “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” I fully agree that we should tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But loving relationships do not need (and cannot bear) the weight of “the whole truth”.

My husband doesn’t need to know every angry or unrighteous thought I think, or every mistake I made today. My children don’t need to know the details of why we can’t visit Ben or what I was talking about on the phone. One step further: my friends who ask “how is it going?” should not hear about our marital frustrations or my children’s failures or my friend’s disappointment.

When people ask, I want to tell the truth, but love should prevent me from telling the ‘whole truth’ about my own or others’ failings. Not that we pretend to be flawless, or hide our mistakes – but our story-telling needs to be filtered through fingers of love.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

I love to tell a good story. Sadly, though, I find myself sometimes telling stories which get maximum effect: stories which don’t quite “fit the occasion” as Ephesians says, or which aren’t really “building anyone up”. I tell stories for entertainment, and sometimes the content errs on the side of taking a stab at someone else’s behavior or ideas. That’s “corrupting talk”, and I hate it when I do that. God’s working on me on this one.

Sure, there are times for telling hard stories or stories of failure and disappointment, times when we DO need to tell “the whole truth” – but I dare say those situations are fewer than I imagine, and they only need to be told when they are told to help correct or encourage someone. Maybe, the “whole truth” should only be told if it “gives grace to those who hear”.

We choose the stories we tell. Let our stories be the truth, and nothing but the truth – but let love filter the “whole truth”.

Photo credit: realchoiceeducation.org.au

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8 thoughts on “I tell the truth, but not always the whole truth”

  1. I love the way you put this: “our story-telling needs to be filtered through fingers of love”. So true. And I, too, have the temptation to tell stories for effect, for laughs or to get sympathy or whatever.

    My angry thoughts about my husband – they’re often not even ‘the truth’ – so why say them? My anger is real, and I can be truthful about that and say: “I’m angry.” But when I have thoughts along the lines of “he always does X and he does not care how it affects me” – that’s not necessarily the truth. It’s just my point of view, skewed by my anger. (If I ask him to explain why he does X, there’s usually a sensible reason, and he’s never inconsiderate on purpose.)

    1. I’m in the same boat: too often calling letting my feelings of hurt masquerade as “facts” of others’ failings. Working on curbing that reaction and giving my hubby the benefit of the doubt is definitely an active way of showing love to him.

  2. Really good points. “Sure, there are times for telling hard stories or stories of failure and disappointment, times when we DO need to tell “the whole truth” – but I dare say those situations are fewer than I imagine.” Several years ago I was at a very frustrating and discouraging point in my life, and I really needed someone to listen. There are times to share, as you indicate. But no one would listen to me and that made it worse. It can be so therapeutic to be heard, and listening seems a forgotten skill. However, I got together for lunch with a new acquaintance (hopefully turn into friendship) and, well, I just let loose verbally – venting about ALL my struggles to this woman! I mean ALL. haha. This was/is very unlike me. The poor woman! The friendship did not develop after this and I’m sure she thought I was a total nut or very selfish going on like I did. I still feel bad about it to this day. Well, thanks for letting me get this off my chest Bronwyn! Looking back, in the absence of anyone (human) to listen, I should have poured myself out to the Lord more – which I did not. Sharing a little with the woman would have been okay, but dumping the whole load, no. It was not edifying to the hearer.

  3. I totally know what you’re saying. God gets me with the same thing–sometimes I tell a story to be heard, laughed at, listened to, respected…but God wants us to tell stories to edify. I think we’re all working on this one.

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