Our country and the church seem to be divided between two camps: the “all truth and no love” camp and the “all love and no truth” camp. That is, some of us have sacrificed truth for the sake of “being loving.” And others of us have sacrificed love for the sake of “being honest.” The question is whether we can actually be fully loving without the truth or communicate the truth effectively without love.
Truth and Love Matter
Two Februarys ago I was rushed to UNC Hospital. I had been chronically ill since 2007 and acutely ill on and off since late 2017, when I dropped down to 110lbs and almost lost my life to starvation. Things were serious. I spent the better part of three years in a bed and all of 2019 in such severe pain that it felt like I was being actively tortured.
For years I had well-meaning doctors trying to help me. Unfortunately, I was misdiagnosed again and again. Honestly, part of this was our fault. When the traditional medical community couldn’t give us an answer, we sought answers from a number of doctors who were practicing outside the bounds of evidenced-based medicine. Two of these misdiagnoses not only didn’t make me better; they made me worse. I was on multiple antibiotics for years. Then in late 2019 a doctor told me I had a virus and put me on medication that turned our nightmare into a horror film. In other words, the road to my physical hell was literally paved with good intentions. Truth matters.
Upon arriving at UNC, I was still fully convinced in my own mind that I had this virus and needed some kind of antiviral to obliterate it. I told the doctor on call what I thought I knew. Do you know what he did? He patiently listened, calmly answered my questions, and then with the utmost gentleness and care explained why the latest diagnosis I had been given was wrong.
He didn’t get angry or dismiss me when I questioned him. He understood that after all the years of failed treatments, I didn’t trust doctors anymore. He then explained what the team at UNC had discovered was in fact wrong with me, and what we needed to do to get me better. And because he wielded the truth with a bedside manner that might have made Mr. Rogers jealous, I listened and bought into the plan that saved my life. Love matters.