In the beginning of a relationship, sometimes couples aren’t as honest with one another or their families for the main reason that we want to be liked so much so that we suppress our true feelings. When my parents were newly married, my mother’s aunt once made a dish for Christmas called squid in black ink (yes, it’s just like what you’re picturing right now), and offered it to my father. He of course couldn’t say no, as he wanted his new family to like him, so he ate and told her how much he liked it. Assuming that he was telling her the truth, she returned to that recipe for him each Christmas along with sending an extra portion of it home to him in a jar. When she visited for the holidays, she would gift him this delectable dish every year for the next twenty years, where he would pretend to be thrilled, but I would end up seeing it sit in our fridge with a red bow on top, untouched for the next month, until he could finally bring himself to throw it out. The burden of her generosity haunted him for years, unable to tell her what he really thought for the sake of her feelings, as it remained not really a blemish on their relationship but just a mere uncomfortableness. Although a minor example of maintaining dishonesty for the sake of a relationship, it serves as an example as to how dishonesty can prolong itself over time, where people have things they want to say to each other, but instead keep it buried deep where it often turns to anger and bitterness. Many of our workplaces are filled with these relationships, where people enter meetings carrying the enormous sack of unsaid items with them, passively refusing to listen to other people’s contributions merely as a means of enacting silent revenge for the things that they feel but cannot bring themselves to say. Proverbs 28.23 (NLT) says that “in the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery,” because a hard message is better than no message at all. Silently fuming around unknowing others, to their faces we are all smiles and compliments, but that approach causes more harm in the long run than that initial, sometimes difficult, confrontation. I recently heard a pastor talk of giving a sermon while his pants’ zipper was down. Many in the congregation wanted to say something, but smiled and listened instead, most likely more fixated on the zipper than his message. His wife was finally the one to tell him, but the pastor wished someone had said something sooner. The initial confrontation of telling him might have been embarrassing, but the pastor would have appreciated that confrontation more so than insincere flattery. Also, the longer insincerity takes hold, like a cancer it grows if untreated, and can turn into resentment especially in a long term relationship. Some marriages are filled more with what is unsaid rather than what is said, as spouses hide their true feelings about certain subjects and situations for the sake of the relationship, fearful of how the other may react. We’ve hidden our real feelings for so long that we are embarrassed to confront, yet that person would prefer the honesty, even if it hurts. When confronting in love, although frightening at first, those actions can prevent further infliction of pain and misery. If the two really, truly care about one another, the relationship will survive and thrive. When we give honest criticism, we are giving information to our loved ones about how they can love us even more. Present in that way, and the recipient, although possibly hurt at first, will appreciate your honesty and love you more for it. Amen.