Keepin’ It Real For Real


Sometimes in my life certain phrases start to get under my skin and just rub me the wrong way. You know what I mean? They get over used or just abused in general. Right now I’m sick of one in particular.

What does it mean to “keep it real” or “keep it 100”? I hear this a lot from people while they are talking about how someone else got upset about or hurt by something they said but it’s not their fault because after all, they were just “keepin’ it real.” Most of the time when I hear someone “keepin’ it real” I notice that the way they are speaking to the other person feels very disrespectful and unkind. It confuses me. I will also add, particularly for my “older” friends, that this includes statements like, “no offense but…” and the ever popular “I’m just saying…”

Speaking the truth in love is the policy I have tried to exercise and it isn’t always easy. I admit that I don’t like conflict, but I also believe that people must earn the right to speak hard truths into another person’s life. If you haven’t built a relationship with me that shows me that you are invested in me as a person and want the very best for me and my family why in the world would I want to hear difficult truths from you about myself.

As people we are more aware of our own shortcomings and issues than anyone else is. In fact if we are “keepin’ it 100” we often wonder how anyone can completely love us knowing how ugly we truly are. Being a person of faith I believe that only God is perfect and I am a work in progress. When someone speaks to me about an area of my life or personality that they find fault with I will likely feel defensive at first, even if I know they love me completely. If we are honest it’s hard for all of us to hear negative things about ourselves and the only way for us to be open to hearing the difficult truth is if we are hearing it from a safe person in our lives. It takes great vulnerability to be able to hear hard truths and take them to heart in a way that may help us change.

To assume that we can just go through life telling everyone difficult things to hear and being upset when they react poorly is selfishness on our part. There are options between “keeping it 100” and “sugar coating it.” Being kind, gentle and gracious to people even when they fall short of our expectations isn’t “sugar coating” anything. If we all went through life saying everything that we felt needed to be said in order to not be “fake” what an ugly world this would be.

Speaking the truth to someone is a place of honor that is earned over time and intentional connection. If you haven’t taken the time to foster a true, safe, real relationship then don’t assume you have a place to stand and take cheap shots of criticism, under the guise of honesty. I’ve lived long enough to learn that everyone is growing and everyone has a story. Don’t assume you know what motivates another person if you aren’t walking along with them on this sacred journey called life.

Don't assume you know what motivates another person if you aren't walking along with them on this sacred journey called life. Being kind doesn’t make you weak. Being gracious doesn’t make you fake. Choosing to turn the other cheek when you’ve been hurt rather than lashing back does not make you a punk. The world in general and my neighborhood specifically could use a lot more kindness and a lot less people “talking mess” and calling it honesty.

Not everything needs to be addressed and deciding that you are the self-appointed Honesty Sherriff in your group may not be appreciated by everyone. Sometimes it is more loving to keep your opinion to yourself and show your friend some grace.

We can do better guys.

Here’s a quick guide you can use to check your own motive before you “keep it real”:

1. Is your intention to truly and honestly help the other person become a better person and work on some area in their life or is this just an opportunity for you to say what’s bugging you at the moment?

2. Is what you’re addressing really necessary? Seriously, not everything needs to be said. Sometimes you can just let it go.

3. Will your friend or someone else be hurt if this behavior or situation is not addressed?

4. Have you earned the right to speak into this person’s life? Do they know you love them unconditionally and only want what is best for them? Have you put in the time and built a relationship of mutual trust? Have they given you permission?

5. Can you speak the truth to them in a loving and kind way? This includes a private conversation, full of warmth and safety. Public dress downs aren’t appreciated by anyone—including you. Give your friend the respect of a private conversation.

6. What is the power dynamic in this relationship? Is this person your employee or employer? Are they your spouse or significant other? Is this your child? Your peer? Each of these relationships in your life have their own power dynamic and this needs to be thought through before you speak about difficult things.

7. Are you angry? Never, ever address difficult truths out of anger. Take the time to work through your own emotions first before approaching another person. Watch your tone of voice while speaking, this can make all the difference.

8. Make sure you’re correct before you speak. When sharing a difficult truth be positive that it is the truth and not just your opinion. Contrary to much popular belief those are often not the same thing.

9. When in doubt choose kindness above all else. No one will be sorry! Love, Dawn