Sometimes the Truth Hurts
And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” Genesis 40:18
I still spend some of my week in Urgent Care, where we see a lot of coughs and colds this time of year. Still though, we do occasionally get those in clinic who have a strange complaint that turns out to be some awful new diagnosis. Telling someone they have a mass on their lung that is most likely cancer, is a terrible thing to do. I know that no matter how I say it, it’s horrendous news that will keep them awake at night worrying about a diagnosis that will radically change their life. When I get the diagnosis, honestly, I don’t want to tell them. It’s an awful part of my job. Not telling the patient though, isn’t an option. As miserable as it is to hear the truth, it’s not my job to shield patients from it. As much as the truth may sometimes hurt, I must be equipped to share it.
Today’s passage provides one such example of a painful truth. In it, Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt with the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, both of whom had strange dreams one night. These two told their dreams to Joseph who interpreted the dreams. The cupbearer’s dream meant he’d soon be released from prison and restored to his old job – good news. Hearing the good news, the baker wanted his dream interpreted too. Only his interpretation wasn’t so good. His dream meant that he’d soon be hanged. God gave the interpretations to Joseph, which he was meant to share with the dreamers. It wasn’t Joseph’s job to shield the baker from devastating news. As he was given the truth, so he had to deliver it to those affected by it – even if it hurt.
Working with the addicted, I must often acknowledge certain painful truths. I’d prefer to be encouraging all the time – You’re doing great! But the truth is, sometimes my patients aren’t doing great. Sometimes they make terrible decisions. Sometimes, I must call them out on that.
It takes wisdom and maturity on our part, but often, we must share painful truths with those around us. Loving others doesn’t always mean bashing them over the head with the truth. Love and truth aren’t the same thing. Sometimes though, sharing a painful truth is the most loving thing to do. Avoiding a painful truth may itself be sinful on our part. We must recognize when truth must be spoken and then we must deliver the truth in love – even if it hurts.