I was sitting in my chair one morning years ago when my youngest came downstairs. She made a beeline for me, jumping up onto my lap. I gave her a fatherly squeeze and a gentle kiss on the head, and she squealed with delight. But then she furrowed her brow, crinkled her nose, and shot an accusatory glance at my coffee mug. “Daddy,” she announced solemnly. “I love you, and I like you, but I don’t like your smell.”
My daughter couldn’t have known it, but she spoke with grace and truth: she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she felt compelled to tell me something. And sometimes we need to do that in our relationships.
In Ephesians 4, Paul zeroes in on how we relate to each other—especially when telling difficult truths. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 2). Humility, gentleness, and patience form our relational foundation. Cultivating those character qualities as God guides us will help us “[speak] the truth in love” (v. 15) and seek to communicate “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (v. 29).
No one likes being confronted about weaknesses and blind spots. But when something about us “smells,” God can use faithful friends to speak into our lives with grace, truth, humility, and gentleness.