everything that comes from our mouths (and computers) should be truly constructive to any who hear or read. We should actively intend good, seeking to “give grace to those who hear.” That takes thought about one’s motives, tone, framing, balance of emphases.
There are times to name what’s wrong and to name names. Both Tim and I do that in our writing and teaching, and the article mentions in passing the call to such candor. I appreciate efforts of commenters to identify exceptions and nuances, when and how to make someone else’s apparent wrongs more widely known. Thoughtful work on that topic will break new ground, applying the call to “speak truth in love” into an instant-information context where all errors, blunders, sins, failings, and mere clumsiness are potentially available for public scorn. What does it mean to forebear each other in such a world? What does it mean to cover sins in mercy (not cover-up, but true covering in mercy), to allow others to find care and restoration in their own interpersonal context, rather than attempting to humiliate them before the whole world? What does it mean to express the sort of communal tenderness that Dietrich Bonhoeffer captures so well in Life Together—a communal life that includes reproof as a form of love?
But the leading edge of our argument is to place checks on the tendency we all have to snide, sneering, self-righteous, gossipy, malicious words. Any growth we can make in the direction of Ephesians 4:29 will make life much more joyous for all, and bring much glory to our God. And even criticisms I make become more hearable when I the critic am not posturing, but actually care about others. When I don’t care, my bad attitude and superiority becomes my actual message. Love is patient, love is kind . . . and then love is candid. I hope readers might even go back and give our article a second reading.
This is Powlison’s response to some odd feedback to an article he and Tim Keller wrote.