Don’t Be Nice: Speak the Truth in Love

Posted at Catholic Insight

sunset_praise_worship_268365_lWhen I ask my First Communion class to give me examples of how to live as a child of God, I can always count on at least one of my students saying that we  have to “be nice.”

“What do you mean by nice?” I’ll ask.

That question is followed by sweet responses from lovely seven year-olds: be nice to everybody, be good, be a friend.

Those are lovely school-age sentiments and no doubt adhering to them helps keep order in the schoolyard. The problem arises when we grow up hanging on to the ‘be nice’ mantra.

Increasingly, the Catholic voice in the world is being drowned out, shouted down and silenced by the secularist, politically correct mainstream crowd that values popular opinion over Truth.

If we live like the nice people, then in our misguided notion that love means accepting anything and everything, we become moral relativists. Truth becomes whatever we want it to be, and then it stops being true.

No doubt, speaking the Truth will sometimes get us in trouble or at the very least, we will be accused of being intolerant and hateful. If you speak out against abortion, then you hate women. If you don’t keep your opinions to yourself, you may be called an Islamophobe or a homophobe. Defending Catholic beliefs labels you a self-righteous idolator.

But Jesus said, “be not afraid,” so now is the time to speak the Truth in love and humility without condemnation or fear. To arm ourselves, we ought to constantly seek knowledge about the Faith. St. Josemaria Escriva said that “an hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer.” He urged us to “study, study, in earnest. If you are to be salt and light, you need knowledge, capability.” However, he warns us to be careful of our sources: “Books. Don’t buy them without advice from a Catholic who has real knowledge and discernment. It’s so easy to buy something useless or harmful. How often a man thinks he is carrying a book under his arm, and it turns out to be a load of trash!”

Church documents, writings of saints and holy people, Encyclicals and knowledge of church history are all at our fingertips. So are courses and seminars. We don’t have to become theologians but we should be able to explain the teachings of the Catholic Church.

All around us, our beliefs are misinterpreted and maligned from people outside the Catholic Church as well as from misinformed Catholics or those who do not agree with the Magisterium. While it is always necessary to be charitable, the time has come to stop being nice.

We are all called to be evangelists; that means speaking the Truth in love even when it’s not what people want to hear. Lumen Gentium tells us that we are called, by our lives, to “lead [others] to communion with Christ.” Sometimes we do this by our actions; sometimes with our words. In his Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (In Mission of the Redeemer), Bl. Pope John-Paul II wrote that “no believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”

God is Love. Love is Truth. This is our reason. This is our defense. As Catholic Christians and evangelists, using our words with love, this is what we witness to the world.

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18 Responses to Don’t Be Nice: Speak the Truth in Love

  1. Just to share a quote from St Frances de Sales which you might like. :)

    “A judicious silence is always better than the truth spoken without charity.”

  2. I actually was trying to explain this to a someone who works for our Diocese. We do no one favors by covering up the Faith with sentimentality, a false notion of niceness or tolerance. It is in love that we bring people to the truth, and that means the hard truths that are counter-cultural too. St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as “willing the good of the other”, that means desiring a person’s good over what society tells us is acceptable. Love is hard, but it is the only way. And real love is the Cross. This is a wonderful post!

  3. liturgy guy says:

    Another great post Terry. Timely and well said. Love the St. Escriva quote regarding our formation and reading material:

    “Books. Don’t buy them without advice from a Catholic who has real knowledge and discernment. It’s so easy to buy something useless or harmful. How often a man thinks he is carrying a book under his arm, and it turns out to be a load of trash!”

  4. Nancy says:

    Really like this post. LOVE the quote from St. Josemaria Escriva!

  5. Nice post T, excepting for the inclusion only from The Catholic Church. lol. I am guilting of moral relativism. Working on that. Bright side though, I got shunned by family for not “tolerating” a particular way of life. God is good. Sometimes we treat our “team” as the only team worthy of devotion. There is many great teams. Just sayin :)

  6. I really like the quote on books – it is so true. I was in a Barnes & Noble the other day, and could not keep my big mouth shut. I said to the guy shelving books in the teen section as I passed, “people wonder why our teenagers are messed up. All they have to do is look at the books they read!” The printing press did a lot of good, but opened up a world of danger as well. God bless you Terry!

    • Thanks, Isabella Rose. I really like his quote on books, too. Having a lot of personal experience with teenagers, I agree with you that the teen section at the local book store is mostly stocked with garbage.

  7. reinkat says:

    Great, thought-provoking post. I suppose it all depends on how one defines “nice” but in some ways I am with those second-graders on this. Without niceness, words spoken even with love as a motivation can turn people away from God and cause them to judge His people as harsh and uncaring. Some “niceness” is always being called for–maybe more as tact and kindness. Nice doesn’t mean being a pushover, and we do all need to stand firm when our beliefs are attacked and maligned. But I am quibbling about semantics here, and I really just wanted to congratulate you on a great post with a lot to think about.

    • Thanks, reinkat. I think we can be kind but still be truthful and firm in our beliefs. Being nice, ie, not speaking up for Truth for fear of offending someone, is harmful because by silence, we consent to the continuation of the error.

  8. franciscanmom says:

    I think that what the little ones mean by “nice” is actually what most of us mean by “kind”: be a friend, be helpful, etc. Sometimes kindness involves saying something that someone else doesn’t want to hear–but it’s important to remember the part about speaking the truth IN LOVE.
    Kids can understand that people can be “nice” without being “kind.” Bullies do that all the time. It’s excellent that you are taking the time to help them understand the difference.

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