Love is not afraid to speak the truth, but is always doing so in context, and in kindness. Far from being "judgmental," this kind of truth-speaking earnestly desires the best for the beloved. Several years ago I watched a movie version of Emma, the last novel written by Jane Austen. Although over the years I wouldn't have been able to tell you much of the plot, there has remained lodged deep in my psyche a line from this story. Recently I've returned to Emma, wanting to find again this passage that I remember so vividly. It comes near the end of the book when Mr. Knightley, a family friend who cares deeply for the character of his young sister-in-law, sees Emma act in a way that is carelessly but cuttingly unkind to one of the older ladies in their circle of friends.
After the exchange, which happens at a picnic where Emma is a bit out of sorts, he pulls his friend aside and says: "Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation? ... Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed!"
(More after the break)