Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. . ."
-John 14:6a, NIV
"Truth" seems to be a very popular and sometimes controversial topic these days. One of the most helpful books I have read on this topic was written by Lewis Smedes. It was called A Pretty Good Person.
Smedes, who was an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, talks about what it means to tell the truth. His professional career focused on deciding what was right and wrong from a Christian perspective. Interestingly, one of the sources of wisdom he turned to in helping explain what it meant to tell the truth was Aristotle. Smedes conveyed Aristotle's definition of telling the truth in this way: it is telling the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way for the right reason. Each part of that definition speaks to some aspect of telling the truth well.
For example, in telling the right truth, we may realize that we know something that is true, but it may not be our information to share. This is where confidentiality guidelines may apply. Also, we may know a truth, but it may not be our truth to share with a particular person who "can't handle the truth". Someone may have entrusted a truth to us to give to one person, but it would be wrong for us to share it with another. When it comes to telling the truth at the right time, this takes into account what is going on in the life of the hearer. What we may need to share is true, but the timing may not be right. When it comes to sharing truth in the right way, there are times we can share truth so that it builds up, or so that it tears down. And finally, for the right reason means that we share truth that would reflect our love of God and neighbor, as well as for ourselves.
Now some of us may find that too complex or difficult, but more often than not, I have found these guidelines helpful when it comes to knowing the best way -- the right way -- to tell the truth.