Honestly, I think you should…”

Have you ever wrestled a bit with people who say things like, “Honestly, I think you should…”?  Or, “Honestly, I didn’t understand…”  What about times you’ve heard something similarly stated, “I promise I’ll get….”  Or, “I promise I didn’t….”  Yes, you can fill in the blanks as to how each statement might end for your particular situation.

I anticipate some of you likely hear these words regularly throughout your day.  In fact, many of you are actually using  words like “honestly” and “I promise” in your routine vocabulary.  Don’t’ these seem like innocent enough words?  Normally, they are used to draw attention or emphasis to something in particular in our conversation.  It isn’t that everything else we’ve said prior isn’t important, it’s simply that what we’re about to say has more emphasis.  While by no means am I an English scholar or have a vast vocabulary, I do believe our words carry significance and need to be chosen wisely.

Let’s think about it; what are we actually implying by using the word “honestly” in our vocabulary.  Well, in most cases, while not intended, we’re communicating that there are times we are not “honest”.  Yes, in the mist of a conversation at the point you interject “honestly”, you’re implying to the other person listening that all you’ve said up to this point may or may have not been the truth.

Similarly, let’s look at the words, “I promise”.  For those of you who have children, you may hear these words more often.  However, for all of us, they still find themselves into our daily conversations.  It might go something like, “I promise I’ll turn in my homework assignment on time.”  Or, “I promise I’ll be there on time.”  Again, what are we indirectly saying when we say “I promise”?  Aren’t we indirectly saying that we’re not trustworthy and the fact that we have to use words like “honestly” and “I promise” only further testify to this being the case.

Applying a biblical principle, I’d offer James 5:12 ESV:

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

When we’re using words like “honestly” and “I promise”, are we not “swearing” or making an “oath” to some degree? Well, maybe not intentionally; however, yes, we are.  And, because we are, the later half of the verse “fall under condemnation” is coming into play.  What may seem like such a simple thing is actually setting you up for future condemnation in your relationship.

So, what do we do or what words should be used in exchange?  Well, the simplest thing is to do as James states, “let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no”.  The majority of the time, this will be sufficient.  When we communicate and act with integrity, there leaves no room for condemnation.  We don’t need to add emphasis as our words stand on their own.

Now, occasionally, we do need some emphasis.   In these events, my suggestion is that your pick other words in the English vocabulary to convey this emphasis.  Perhaps a word like, “candidly”.  By using “candidly”, you’re impling that you likely haven’t been as open or direct in your prior conversation.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t been honest or trustworthy.  It simply means you haven’t brought forth full candor in your discussions to this point.  By using the word, “candidly” you’re letting the other person know that you’re desiring to be open and revealing with what comes next in your dialog.  In many cases, this is because what is to follow may be tough to hear.  This in only one example.

A final thought I’d offer is if you’re finding yourself using words like “honestly” and “I promise”, it may be time to take a look deep within.  While not for all of us, most would hold honesty and trustworthiness as values.  Is there a chance that your use of these words indicates a need to recommit to these values?  It can be very subtle and it’s only for you to judge; however, I encourage you to stop and reflect upon this as a possibility.   Dishonesty never serves well in any relationship even if it’s just a “little white lie”.

I hope this helps and would love to hear your comments!

2 responses to “Honestly, I think you should…””

  1. Dennis Shea says:

    Great stuff as always Chris.

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