To tell the truth is often difficult and occasionally excruciating. People of good will do not love the ‘hard conversations’ that life thrusts upon us. Rather, we endure them. We sometimes abhor the anticipation of them, frequently tremble through them, and with some regularity second-guess our execution of them.
The New Testament letters are occasional enough—that is, they are rooted in and engendered by real circumstances—that they give us a glimpse of this same dynamic in the experience of Paul the apostle.
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8–10 ESV)
Paul concedes that he may have regretted for a while the grief that his unwelcome duty to tell the truth to his readers in Corinth had caused them. Yet, in retrospect, he has no regrets, for the hard talk had accomplished its purpose.
Indeed, he observes that the absence of regret he feels as he pens the quoted words is mirrored by the regret-free zone that ‘godly grief’ has produced in the lives of his Corinthian friends.
We cannot know that every speaking of hard truth will end up this way. But we can at least lean into the conversation knowing that it might.