How can we tell the difference between a hater and a truth-teller? It’s not always easy. But our ability to discern the difference will be crucial to our future growth and success.
If we give too much credence to haters and naysayers, we will end up discouraged or confused as they tear down our identity and undercut our mission.
If we reject the input of genuine truth-tellers, we’re likely to end up full of pride, with dangerous blind spots as to our true condition.
Although it sure would be easier if the haters wore black hats and the truth-tellers wore white hats, it’s seldom so clear. I’ve never met a hater who doesn’t claim to simply be “telling the truth.”
Haters are on the rise today, and we want to make sure we aren’t among them. At the same time, truth-tellers seem to be increasingly rare, because the truth is not politically correct or socially acceptable these days. Today’s culture considers being tolerant and non-judgmental to be the paramount human virtues, and this is problematic for truth-telling. Anyone who has a strong opinion is considered a hater, whether they are one or not.
So how do we distinguish between speaking the truth and being a hater? Here are six telltale differences:
1. Truth-tellers are interested in dialogue and relationship, but haters typically “fire bomb” their opponents in hit-and-run style.
2. Truth-tellers have an ultimate objective of help and healing, but haters want to silence and destroy their adversaries.
3. Truth-tellers have hope that people will acknowledge the truth and repent, but haters are convinced people will never change.
4. Truth-tellers are humble enough to admit they’re not always right about things, but haters have a smug, know-it-all attitude.
5. Truth-tellers have a track record of making positive contributions, but haters leave a trail of devastation wherever they go.
6. Truth-tellers demonstrate an ability to find the good in things whenever possible (Philippians 4:8), but haters typically are negative about everything.
One day King David was approached by a hater named Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-13). This bitter man from Saul’s clan cursed at David, threw stones at him, and called him names like “murderer,” “scoundrel,” and “worthless man.” David’s men were outraged, and they wanted to cut off Shimei’s head. To their shock, David said to let Shimei alone, for perhaps the Lord had told him to say those things!
David’s humility enabled him to realize a vital truth: Just because a person is a hater, that doesn’t mean they’re not also speaking the truth at times. However, rather than following Shimei’s example, Ephesians 4:15 says we’re to speak the truth in love.
If you’re a leader, you need to be careful how you handle haters and truth-tellers. Beware of the tendency to surround yourself with people who flatter you as if you can do no wrong. Make sure you have some people in your life who love you enough to tell you the truth—even when it hurts.
When you are criticized, don’t automatically conclude that the person is a hater. Take their critique to the Lord and ask Him to show you if any part of it is true.
When Nathan the prophet confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12), can you imagine what would have happened if David had branded Nathan as a hater and rejected his input? We need to make sure we love the truth enough to find and embrace the truth-tellers around us.
What about you? Have you been too concerned about what the haters and naysayers think about you? Do you have a few faithful friends who can tell you the truth when you’ve been too blind to see it?