There is really a lot of genius behind the entire passage of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It starts off with easy ones and increases with difficulty. Be kind. Be patient. Love and value yourself. Love and value everyone. Find lasting fulfillment and be happy. Seek understanding of those who oppose your beliefs. Forgive all transgressions, even the ones that have caused intense emotional pain. And then comes – love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. This section of the passage is quite the doozy! Be honest, regardless of the cost. Be honest, even if it makes you unpopular. Be honest, even if someone attacks you for doing so. Be honest, even if it harms your relationships. That’s a really difficult thing to do. And that’s why this isn’t the first one on the list; if we weren’t solid with the other aspects of love, we couldn’t do this one effectively or even at all.
Think about that for a second. We can’t be honest with someone if their friendship supports our self-worth. We can’t be honest with someone effectively if our approach is rude, arrogant or vengeful. And we can’t lovingly be honest if our intention is self-seeking. It’s impossible to give effective tough love if we are wrapped up in our ego. Like with all of the other aspects of love, it is rising out of ourselves and giving others what they need. When we’ve mastered the other areas of love, emotionally, we are in need for nothing.
Let’s back up and look at the passage again: Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love seeks to build others up to their best self. And in doing so, it requires that we approach others with honesty rather than chastising them, praising them or ignoring the behaviors that keep them from being the best version of themselves. Love wants everyone to win, to thrive, to be love themselves. And when we humans commit ourselves to destructive behaviors that causes emotional suffering, we push ourselves further away from that destination.
Imagine for a moment that you are homeless. It’s a cold blistery day. The wind is whipping up around your face. You feel the sting against your cheeks. It’s a nasty bite. You have two choices that lay before you. One is a blanket sitting next to you for an extra layer of protection. The other is shelter from the cold, next to the warmth of a fire. But that shelter is in a new city; you aren’t willing to go that far, to do something different. After all, the winter will end soon. So you choose the blanket; that’s all you know. You struggle to stay warm, day after day after day, without seeing much change in your life. Friends pass by and wave, give you a warm drink and pat on the back here and there. They watch you struggle but don’t do anything to help. But there was one friend that persists. They stop by each week with a bus ticket to the shelter. Usually, you’re annoyed, even berating them from time to time for thinking they know better than you. But one day, you see a large storm approaching; you know you better get on that bus or you might not make this one. As you step into the shelter, you feel the warmth surround you. You see smiling faces, plenty of food and water and kindness all around you. And as you stand there in the glory of it all, you think to yourself, ‘All those days, all of those years, why did I choose the blanket when I could have had this? And all of those days and all of those years, why did all but one pass me by to let me suffer?’
Honesty can be difficult; that’s way it’s called tough love. It is hard to have that conversation with someone. They may be combative. They may remove you from their life. They may not talk to you for several years and may never thank you for your strength. But if we want to create a loving world, there are going to be times where tough love is required. If we can’t stand up for each other, who will stand up for any of us? Leave no man behind.
Change yourself, change your life and you will change the world. To receive this week’s self-studies for Love Does Not Rejoice at Wrongdoing But Rejoices with The Truth, follow Verge of Greatness on Instagram @v.of.g.