I once had a court-appointed client who was facing charges that could result in up to one year in jail. He was almost an hour late to court and the judge kept waiting as his name was called numerous times. Finally came the fifth and final call and he was finally there. I asked the judge for a minute to confer with him outside of the courtroom and she agreed.
When we got into the hallway, it went something like this:
“You are off to a bad start. This is the toughest judge in this city and she knows you are late because your name has been called numerous times. It’s important to be on time and show that you are taking this seriously. The judge likely won’t be happy that you don’t seem to be responsible enough or interested enough to get here on time” I explained.
“I want a new lawyer,” my client responded.
“OK, let’s go in there and ask for you to get a new lawyer (the judge had to approve that request),” I said as I grabbed the door handle back towards the courtroom. Pausing before opening the door, I asked, “Why do you want a new lawyer?”
“Because you aren’t helping me” my client responded.
“Yes I am, you just aren’t happy that I am holding you accountable. I was never disrespectful to you and I looked you in the eye and was direct with you. You’re just not used to be dealt with directly and now you don’t like it so you want a different lawyer. Let’s go ask the judge” I concluded.
About that time, he reached out and grabbed my arm and said, “Wait a minute, I want you to be my lawyer.”
Just like that, this 50-something year old man responded to the candor of the investment I was attempting to make in him. It appeared to be almost an involuntary reflex for him to grab my arm and decide he would stick with me. It was almost an afterthought that he would trust my advocacy and believe that I was for him. Yet, in that moment in time, he decided that he would receive the direct and challenging critique I offered him.
There is something in us that wants the truth. We might initially balk and scramble to protect our pride or comfort but we want what’s real. We know when we mess up and the ducking and dodging we engage in to avoid being called out gets tiresome. We know it and don’t like it, so when someone does us the favor of being direct we are relieved to step from behind our fig leaf into relationship that is real.
Churches, ministries and other faith-based relationships don’t need to sugar coat anything for people to be interested. Direct communication of the eternal truth may not be comfortable but it is desirable. The gloves can come off when we are advocates for the souls of people seeking the truth. If they weren’t seeking, they wouldn’t have come in the first place.