Confessions of a Pastor #1 – I’m not allowed to be totally honest

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Words

The ideal pastor is a man of honesty, integrity, transparency. When he speaks, he does so on behalf of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit, under the authority of scripture, so you know he’s telling the truth.

The catch is that as a pastor (as a Christian, as a reasonable human being), I’m supposed to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and sometimes the most loving thing is to not tell the whole truth.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m a compulsive liar or anything. I take my role as pastor, and my responsibility to be a Christ-like example very seriously. I am a teller of the truth. I don’t bend or twist it to suit my needs or desires. I’m not a liar, nor am I deceptive. I try my best to live up to the ideal described in the first sentence. It’s just that sometimes, I don’t say everything I wish I could.

A great example of this is the blog post you’re reading right now. I have a list of “pastoral confessions” I’m going to write about in this series. I was about halfway through the first one when I took a break to read it to my wife. Her response?

“You can not publish that.”

She wasn’t being mean, she was being a good wife. She was protecting me from myself and my desire to be brutally honest. Key word there? Brutally.

The blog post that I had typed was 100% true, accurate, and heart-felt. I typed from experience. She agreed with every word of it, but it was brutally honest, and unless I’m mistaken, you can’t be both brutal and loving at the same time.

So, as a pastor, sometimes I hold back. I won’t lie, and I won’t be deceptive, but I also won’t tell you everything I’m feeling or thinking, because my first responsibility is to guide you closer to God, and that’s tough to do when I’m being brutal instead of loving.

  1. Gina says:

    Excellent and very honest post! And that wife if yours…. She’s incredibly wise too!

  2. efchristi says:

    I guess I am missing the point. If you, as a pastor or a friend, feel that the truth would be too harsh maybe you aren’t thinking with love.
    Many years ago I wrote “Love can be defined as a feeling — that grows in depth and intensity as you share it.” To me it means if you think, live and share love in everything you do in life, truth will not hurt.
    As a friend, I expect that you would be honest with me especially if you think I am going the wrong direction. As a pastor, if I asked for your input, I expect you to lead me or point me in the right direction. If you can’t do this then you need to examine your heart to see why you feel that way.
    One last thought — Love isn’t love until you give it away.

    Have a blessed day!


    • Matt Richard says:

      I understand what you are saying, but think it is necessary to differentiate between truth that is beneficial, and truth that is neutral or negative. Pastors have to pick and choose the kind of truth they share. It if is not absolutely necessary and beneficial that it be shared, then why risk alienating a follower and hurting your chance to minister to them in the future?

      For example (this is exaggerated): I am going bald at the age of 28. This statement is true, but it is not a truth that affects me spiritually, or my church as a whole. Therefore, it is not a truth worth being shared with me by a pastor.

      • Jared says:

        “Pastors have to pick the kind of truth they share.”
        Great point, and also, who they share it with. I’m fortunate to have a couple of “safe” people with whom I can share anything.

    • Jared says:

      I agree that everything we do should be covered in love, but disagree with your statement that “truth will not hurt.”

  3. granna07 says:

    So, is what you are saying your blog ‘Confessions of a Pastor’ will not always contain the whole truth; therefore, you won’t be actually ‘confessing’….except confessing that you can’t share the whole truth?

  4. As Christians, we should do the same. If it isn’t something that is going to help another grow, we may want to reconsider speaking.

  5. gman4691 says:

    How about being brutally loving(?)

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