Thanks for joining me again as we take a deeper look into Step 6 of Good Trouble: Seek out the truth and not talking points. In our last video we walked alongside Laura Haviland as she witnessed brutal beatings of young childhood slaves who at the mercy of their grandmother, who was simply too sick to awaken them for their morning chores. Laura had travelled undercover to Arkansas as a seamstress to get a special message to Ann, a slave woman. In the process Laura was almost torn limb by limb by vicious blood hounds trained to chase and kill slaves trying to escape. The worst part of being undercover was she could not reveal the true purpose of her trip and only on her boat trip home was she free to come to the rescue of a sweet, grieving slave couple who were being sold down the river from their children. Often the opposite was the case for slaves. It was the children who were separated from their parents and sold down the river. In this case it was elderly parents sold away, and Laura was no longer in the difficult role of being an indifferent observer, so she listened intently to their plight and prayed with them. She also promised to continue to pray for them.
Three weeks in this environment was more than enough time for her to learn about the horrors of slavery in her country. She certainly felt its sting of death. Finally in Cincinnati where she could deeply breathe in the air of freedom, she embraced her dear abolitionist friends. She left after two days needing to get home and share her adventures with family and friends there.
The prevailing feeling arose in the North that only the “cannon and sword” could destroy this hideous monster of slavery. How she wished it had not come to this.
As in her many challenging adventures, she wondered. Will the day of slavery ever end?
The year 1861 was the determining year in the fight between threatening attitudes from both the North and the South. It was not long before the threat of war became a reality, and the future of Mrs. Haviland’s Raisin Institute was threatened as well. In the end 17 of the Raisin Institute students would enlist in the Civil War. When the 75,000 men who had been enlisted by President Lincoln were simply not enough to suppress the slaveholders’ rebellion, the male students felt bound to go. This dark battle was a cloud looming over their school, community, state, and country. Somehow the school stayed in operation through the third year of the war, 1863-1864. In 1864 Keenly aware that severe suffering afflicted our troops in need, Mrs. Haviland offered her service of nursing to the country. Gathering approximately 2,000 garments and supplies for the war’s makeshift hospitals, she carried with her the credentials of Michigan’s governor, Austin Blair and Congressman F.C. Beaman. Receiving a railroad pass from Arthur Chester, the Secretary of Transportation, the other soldiers said such a pass was a rarity; and they teased her about her rank and standing. As a sidenote: this was the beginning of a significant relationship with Secretary Chester who two decades later became President Chester and once again helped Mrs. Haviland in her humanitarian work with the free refugees in Kansas.
Laura entered the Union Army as a nurse in 1864 until the end of the war in April 1865. She quickly acclimated herself to working in the political arena of the Union Army protocol of position and rank serving as a seamstress and providing for the needs of the slaves as they walked into the Union Army as a free person.
On one expedition Laura was travelling to another field of service with several soldiers along with three women who had previously been slave owners. The conversation of the officers had been fascinating and they had all listened in to the discussion of establishing schools for the freed slaves and bringing freed men on board the army as soldiers. When the officers left the cabin, one of the women passengers pulled her chair next to Laura’s and asked her in a subdued tone.
“Do you believe it is right to set up schools among slaves?”
“Certainly, I do.” Laura asserted. “They have as much right to become intelligent as any other group of people.”
“Do you think it is right to make soldiers out of slaves?” she continued.
“Certainly, it is if it is right for any other group of people!”
Looking from side to side to see if an officer could be listening, the woman asked again, “And do you think it right to rob us of our slaves, as the Yankees are doing?”
“Certainly, I do if by robbery thee means allowing slaves go wherever they please?” Laura responded in her common everyday tone of voice, yet the woman seemed to be frightened by her answers.
Once again, the ex-slave owner gazed in all directions before she continued in a low tone. “I tell you it is mighty hard. My pa paid his own money for our slaves and that’s not all of which they’ve robbed us. They have taken our horses, cattle, sheep, and everything.”
Laura read to her from the book of Revelation in the Bible, the story of God destroying Babylon and taking…”’fine flour and wheat and beasts and sheep and horses and chariots and slaves and souls of men.’ See, Laura continued, these are the very articles thee has named. And God is the same unchanging Lord today.”
Shaking her head she claimed, “But, I tell you, madam, it’s mighty, mighty hard.”
Our Southern woman closely watched the officers, raising her handkerchief to her face while talking to Laura. This was an attempt to tone down the sound of her already, stifled voice.
Laura could not help but think six years earlier her thoughts could not even be echoed as a whisper, while slaveholders carried the thought of the day. They enjoyed threatening, intimidating, and cursing abolitionists. How the tables had turned! Now Laura could shout all that was in her heart on the sin of slavery. It was the slaveholder who was now hushed. How our country had changed!
Once we find the truth, how do we share it with others of an opposing perspective or worldview? Let’s look at the common experiences we share when not only seeking but also speaking the truth. The challenging thoughts that follow must be credited to my mentor and friend, Pastor Steve Chiles.
First, when we practice the principle of seeking & speaking the truth, many of us aren’t speaking the truth. We speak our opinions. We speak our bias. We speak our emotional reaction to something. Sometimes we even speak half-truths. But the reality is, truth is rarely spoken. Second, we don’t speak it in love. We rudely smack someone with our “honest” feedback under the guise of, “I just tell it like it is.” That’s not love. That’s not even good social manners. But somehow, because WE think it’s right, we feel as if we need to say it without a filter.
So how can we practice this principle? Here are a few suggestions to consider BEFORE we try to “speak the truth in love.” “Does this really need to be said?” Sometimes what we may want to say might be true, but it’s also petty. Some things really don’t matter. Let it go. “Do I have a relationship with this person or a right to say this?” Most of the time people need to know that you genuinely care about them before they’re able to receive hard truth from you. “Is this the right time to say something?” Timing is everything. “What’s the most positive way I can say this?” HOW you say what you say will be even more important than what you say. Telling someone there’s a better way to handle something is received better than telling them how horribly they’re doing it! “Am I emotionally in control?” If you try to approach someone when you’re angry or upset, you won’t be speaking the truth in love. You’ll be speaking your perspective of the truth wrapped in whatever prevailing emotion is in charge. Those scenarios don’t usually end well. They particularly do not end well when venting on social media! No one really cares for the drama; and no one is concerned about hearing dirty laundry and gossip that often goes along with such vents.
A final question for speaking the truth is “Have I prayed about this?” Pride goes before a fall. It also goes before bad conversations. Talking to God about whether or not you should have this talk is the conversation BEFORE the conversation that all of us need to have. After all, if you want to speak the truth in love, it’s best to speak to the One who IS truth and love.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles shares this with the church in Ephesus. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” – Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
“Truth gives definition and direction to love. Love gives compassion and kindness to truth.” Tripp Prince, Wisdom Hunters