Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8 NKJV
James didn’t take the long way around, did he? This verse perfectly captures an issue I’ve been contemplating lately: clarity, especially in communication.
I am not talking about eloquence or charm or any of the other natural gifts used by great communicators. Clarity is “the quality of being easily understood” (Merriam-Webster’s). You don’t have to be eloquent or witty or quick to be easily understood. But why is it that I understand some people far more easily than others? Why am I sometimes clear, and other times I’m a fogbank of confusion? I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a picture of the most basic impediment, the rarity of clarity: lying.
See, unless you have wholly given yourself over to lies (and their father), and have no remorse or guilt over actively denying the truth, then you probably don’t lie easily. Lying is usually quite messy. Its purpose is to obscure or skew the truth, so there’s nothing straightforward about it.
When I first began to write for this blog, I frequently struggled to make myself easily understood. I had some clarity issues. A few times it was because I tried to say too much, but that was the exception. Usually my clarity issue came from omitting or obscuring the truth, which is lying. I would try to talk about my life without getting into the heart of it all—without telling the whole truth. I was okay with revealing some of it, but I didn’t want to reveal all that God was asking me to tell.* The result wasn’t pretty. My writing would be vague or confusing, and I would get incredibly frustrated. But my problem was spiritual and had nothing to do with my ability to write. I simply didn’t want to write the truth of my heart – of my LIFE – and so I didn’t have clarity.
It’s interesting that James addressed general sinners and the double-minded separately. The sinners were advised to clean their hands, because their flesh was filthy. But the double-minded were told to purify their hearts, which is far more serious. When I refuse the truth of my heart, I muddy the core of me and it affects EVERYTHING in my life. When I struggled for clarity in my writing, it was because I was mixing lies with truth. I rejected honest reality and tried to build a fake world, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. Lying takes a great deal of energy and focus and, unlike my Creator, I’m neither all-knowing or all-powerful, so it takes a toll.
Telling the truth doesn’t take effort, but it often takes courage and it always builds and strengthens integrity. I am only whole and intact when I am in reality, in the TRUTH of who I am and how I live. I see now that clarity is a result of loving the truth—ALL of it.
…I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart…
1 Samuel 12:23b, 24a NKJV
*There is a difference between telling the truth and disrespecting yourself and others with indiscretion. The Holy Spirit knows what to say and when to say it. And one of the biggest lessons of my life is remembering that anyone can ask me a question, but only God can demand my answer (thank you, Milan Kundera, for putting it so succinctly). I do not now, nor would I ever encourage the indiscriminate vomiting of words under the guise of “truth-telling.”