Several years ago I heard a talk by speaker, author and psychologist, Henry Cloud, where he addressed the issue of truth. In particular he addressed truth in light of the reality that not everyone is the same and therefore not everyone responds to truth in the same way. His assertion was simply that when it comes to this, people will generally react in line with one of three categories. The categories are Wise, Foolish and Evil.
What does a wise person do with the truth? They let it change them. Influence them. They change their behaviour, their perspective or something to match the truth. As uncomfortable as it may be for them, they have such a high value for the truth that they will adjust to the truth, because they recognise that truth is a gift.
A foolish person may be impressive or likeable, but the fool receives truth in a very different way to the wise. The latter adjusts themselves to the truth, whilst the fool seeks to change the truth. They will minimise it, excuse it, or they shoot the messenger. When they are confronted with truth which they may not like, they will try to find someone who will endorse what they believe to be true. It may not simply describe how they receive truth, but sometimes they will think they are seeking out truth but disregard anything which does not confirm what they thought or wanted to be true.
An evil person is not a category any of us like to talk about. When confronted with the truth they have destruction on their mind. They want to tear the truth bearer and the organisation down. Cloud points out that the Bible is particularly strong on this. Paul writes in Titus 3: 10, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” It is confronting advice, but at the heart of it is a recognition that some people will react this way and it is important to protect the truth.
Now, what are we supposed to do with this? In part recognise that not all people are the same and don’t assume that everyone will react as a wise person to truth. There is also something else. Come to the realisation that all of us have these parts. We all have the capacity to respond to truth in any of these three ways. The concern for each of us is where do we camp out most. Which category is most true of us? Let’s try to be wise, and allow the truth to change us.