Imagine a friend asking you to meet them for coffee. You meet them at your favorite coffee shop, order, get your coffee, sit down together and begin to make small talk. It isn’t too long before they let you know they need to share something with you.
Something they have been wrestling with for a while.
You can tell that the mood has changed from casual conversation to something more serious.
They begin to open up and share with you that they are not who you think they are. They are not who they have been pretending to be. They tell you that they have come to believe themselves to truly be a dinosaur. Or imagine they tell you they genuinely believe themselves to be a 6 month old baby, or you can pick any other thing that they clearly are not; a cat, a frog, whatever. The point is that they believe themselves to be something that, in fact, they are not.
Now, as they share this belief with you, it would be wrong for you to react with anger and disgust; telling them how stupid they are and attacking them for holding a belief that is clearly outside of reality. If you began yelling at them that they are crazy, insane, dumb, evil or any other insult, it would only be hurtful. It would also be wrong for you to get up and leave and simply avoid them from that point on. Neither abusing them with words nor shunning them would do them any good.
Your friend is under some kind of delusion. They believe themselves to be something that in reality, they simply are not. They need help, and responding with a negative backlash would be damaging.
We live in a time when more and more people are becoming deluded and believing themselves to be something they are not. Our culture has properly identified that lashing out at them with insults and spewing hatred is the wrong way to respond. Unfortunately, they have chosen a more damaging response; embrace the delusion.
Let’s go back to you and your friend at the coffee shop for a moment. They have just broken the news that they are not who you think they are or who they have been pretending to be, but they are a dog. You choose not to laugh in their face or say something hurtful, but it will also do your friend no good to “play along” with the delusion. You are doing more damage by not confronting this delusion with truth.
When someone is deceived and out of touch with reality what they need most desperately is truth. However, we live in a culture that embraces delusion, even celebrates it. Anything other than embracing the delusion is misunderstood as hatred and bigotry.
It is easier to just play along. “So you are a dog?!? That is wonderful! Dogs are great and I think it is fantastic that you are one!”
In Ephesians 4:15 we are told to “speak the truth in love.” As followers of Jesus we are called to speak the truth, to set people free from the lies and delusion of the enemy. That is what love does. In fact, to leave someone caught in lies and confusion should not be understood as acceptance, but cruelty. But when we “speak the truth,” it must not be in hostility, frustration, anger or disgust, but “in love.”