FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Dance: Compassion and Truth in Relationships: Paul Miller

with Paul Miller | July 7, 2023
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Ever wondered in a relationship whether it's a time for truth—or compassion? Pulling inspiration from Jesus' example, author Paul Miller relays personal stories and insights, underscoring the importance of truth in fostering intimacy, growth, and transformative connections. Grab tips to navigate tough conversations with grace, embrace vulnerability, and harness the power of honest feedback to deepen your relationships.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ever wondered in a relationship whether it’s a time for truth—or compassion? Author Paul Miller explores the power of honest feedback to in relationships.

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The Dance: Compassion and Truth in Relationships: Paul Miller

With Paul Miller
July 07, 2023
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FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript
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The Dance: Compassion and Truth in Relationships

Guest: Paul Miller
From the series: Love Walked Among Us (Day 2 of 2)
Air date: July 7, 2023

Paul: Honesty is good, but a lot of people don’t like it you know. They, they don’t sort of wake up in the morning and say, [Laughter] “Oh, thank you for that rebuke. I have just felt pride going in my heart all day and I just, I really needed that rebuke. Thank you.” [Laughter] You know, you don’t hear that too often.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the FamilyLife® app.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I would say one of the hardest dances, but it’s a really needed dance in marriage, is the balance between love and truth, grace and truth.

Ann: I agree.

Dave: That’s probably true in any part of your life but loving each other but being honest and truthful, and sometimes that’s hurtful at the same time.

Ann: I think we can err on either end for sure.

Dave: Yes, and so I think we all need coaching. [Laughter] If anybody needs coaching, we need coaching.

Ann: We have a good coach with us today.

Dave: Yes, we’ve got Paul Miller back in the studio. Not only do you know how to live this out, you’ve written about it and you’re a teacher of this. I really feel like I’m sitting at the feet of someone that can mentor us.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It’s a joy to have you here Paul, thank you.

Paul: It’s good to be here.

Dave: Yes, we’ve had some amazing discussions. You’ve written a book about how Jesus did this called Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus. We’ve already discussed the eyes of Jesus that struck you when you walked through the Gospels. How He looked

Paul: Yes.

Dave: I just got to say, we talked about that yesterday but that hit me so strongly when I was reading your book. I don’t think I look enough at people. Again, we don’t want to belabor that but I–have you ever done this? I like turn my eyes away on purpose.

Paul: Yes.

Dave: –because I know if I look-

Paul: Yes.

Dave: –I’ll feel- [Laughter]

Paul: Yes.

Dave: –and I’ll need to act, especially a neighbor or a stranger it’s just like I, I don’t want to see that need-

Paul: Yes.

Dave: –if I don’t look, I won’t see it.

Paul: Yes.

Dave: Jesus did the opposite.

Paul: Yes. He’s just really remarkable. Kind of the second big thing that is in the book that struck me about Jesus in addition to His compassion is His honesty. Just what you were saying Dave. It’s just, it’s–there’s dinners in Luke 7, 11 and 14. In each one of them Jesus openly insults His guests. [Laughter] I mean no one who is normal was that bold. And it’s just His boldness struck me as rudeness and what I was measuring when I said that, and I knew it, was not Jesus’ rudeness but my commitment to looking nice
and my wanting approval.

I knew something was wrong with my honesty, that I checked my honesty because after a while you learn that honesty is good, but a lot of people don’t like it you know. They don’t sort of wake up in the morning [Laughter] and say, “Oh thank you for that rebuke. I have just felt pride going in my heart all day and I just really needed that rebuke. Thank you.” [Laughter] You know, you don’t hear that too often. Usually, people kind of come back at you. And so, compassion has a cost. Honesty also has a cost, particularly in close relationships we don’t want to bear that cost or we keep the lid on our honesty so tight that the only way we can get out is use the sort of anger as sort of a gunpowder to blow open the lid. Then we vent. So, we kind of go from stuffing to dumping and don’t learn that interior balance.

Ann: I mean this is so true in marriage.

Paul: Yes.

Ann: –And I should say we’re probably more honest in our marriage, but with friends, that we don’t even know that well, we want people to like us.

Paul: Yes. There’s nothing wrong at one level with that desire but that desire becomes central so when there’s an honest word that might be needed, we pull back-

Ann: –mmm

Paul: –and don’t give it. Jesus’s honesty characterizes the early church. It’s really striking. Think of Philippians 4 where Paul writes in an open letter to the entire congregation that these two women, would they stop quarreling. We would never do that openly. [Laughter] But that kind of bold honesty runs all through the Gospels.

Dave: Now have you had to speak honestly, be honest in your marriage or in your life that you can remember that was-

Paul: Well, our worst story on this was when Jill and I went dancing and let me put it this way. Rhythm [laughter] and I don’t really connect. I can’t even clap and sing at the same time. [Laughter] That’s how bad it is, right? And my wife didn’t know all the steps but has really good rhythm. So, we’d gone dancing, it was this old ballroom. We got out there and I got off beat and Jill started leading me [Laughter] and I got irritated at her and she walked off. So, so much for intimacy. [Laughter] I mean it was just an open ballroom kind of thing.

Dave: Yes.

Paul: You know what I mean? So, the next day we went out for a walk, and I did that incarnation thing of looking, feeling - just to step into her shoes and say, “Jill, what upset you about yesterday?” “You get angry all the time,” so she gave me an earful, and the only thing I was thinking about was how she led me and not my anger. And just to be thinking about my anger and I just kept asking her more questions. I saw myself through her eyes in a way I hadn’t before. In other words, I began with compassion. I knew that’s where you started. So, by going into her world and just learning, I drew out her honesty.

Ann: –mmm

Paul: I remember we were sitting on the curb just listening and I was learning things about myself that I hadn’t really thought of. And then, it was several hours later I said, “Jill it would have been easier if you had just told me I was off beat instead of just leading us.” She wasn’t happy with that but that wasn’t–the goal of honesty is a gift, and the person doesn’t have to receive it.

Ann: –hmmm

Paul: It’s okay just to be honest, with one sentence honesty.

Ann: It’s such a beautiful picture of intimacy, because you’re sharing, it’s gutsy to ask, “What were you feeling? What was going on?” because you’re noticing–like I know when Dave notices or asks me a question or says, “Tell me more about that,” I become like a pool of tears because like, “You want to know?”

Paul: Yes.

Ann: So, for you then to be honest and say, to give her what you were feeling, it’s such a beautiful picture of marriage-

Paul: Yes, yes.

Ann: –the beauty of marriage.

Dave: Yes, but at the same time here’s another thought. When you said it’s a picture of intimacy, if you’re honest and the person doesn’t receive it-

Ann: –mmm

Dave: -it feels like the opposite of intimacy.

Ann: Oh.

Dave: It feels like we just now, I said something, did something that creates distance-

Ann: –you didn’t receive it-

Dave: –I shouldn’t have said it.

Ann: Oh.
Dave: You can think it, I was just trying to be honest and love you. I mean when your wife said that to you. you asked her and she told you, “You get angry a lot,” you didn’t respond in anger. You didn’t get defensive. You received it. That’s intimacy. But often that’s not the response.

Paul: That took me 18 hours though till I got to that point.

Dave: Really?

Ann: Did it?

Paul: Because I, we had danced that night and it was the next evening.

Ann: Okay so you took some time.

Paul: Yes, yes, I knew she needed a little time to get oriented, you know what I mean-

Ann: Yes.

Paul: -to understand where my heart is? But what you said there Dave was really good. Because what a lot of people do when they give the gift of honesty, and the other person doesn’t want it, they regret-

Dave: –yes

Paul: –giving the gift, but it’s a gift. We need one another to speak truth into our lives and it doesn’t mean that what I am saying, what the other person is saying is true but when someone pushes the gift away, that does not mean the honesty was wrong.

Dave: Hmm.

Paul: Jesus is honest because He is both mercy and justice.

Ann: But isn’t it in our human nature, if we were rejected, “Well, I’m not going to give you my honest heart again.” For you, you would do it again because-

Paul: –we’re fallen creatures of compassion focuses on the person; honesty focuses on the truth. If you’re all compassion, then your relationship’s just going to be mush. If you’re honest it’s going to be harshness. So, you could say that speaking the truth protects you from becoming a codependent, and compassion protects you from becoming domineering - either one, either person. Does that make sense?

Ann: Yes.

Paul: You’ll see in some of the more complex conversations that Jesus has - like that one in Luke 7 with Simon, the complexity with the way Jesus blends His honesty and compassion together is just kind breathtaking. Because He really takes time with Simon in Luke 7 by telling him that parable about the one guy who had 500 denarii, and 50, asking Simon a question about it. He pulls Simon away from the world of the woman, because a parable pulls you out of one world and puts you in another world. So, it pulls the emotion down. So, He’s being kind to Simon and then He rebukes him openly in front of all the guests and said you know–and gives him these three body blows. You know I don’t know what to call them. “You didn’t greet Me with a kiss. She hasn’t stopped greeting Me. You didn’t put oil on My head and she’s pouring perfume on My feet. You didn’t wash My feet and she’s washed My feet with her tears.” And she does this in front of all of the guests. It’s this powerful honesty and He honors this woman that everybody else despises. So, He brings up this, this woman and brings down this proud man.

Ann: Hmm

Dave: And like you said, it’s a real gift.

Paul: Yes, it’s a gift.

Dave: I mean to everybody in the house and to all of us now. He even said this story would be talked about and we’re doing it right now. Decades, years later, it’s a real gift but I think you have to have the humility to receive it as a gift, because it will make you so much better, so much like Christ

Paul: Yes, yes

Dave: –if you’ll receive it. If you don’t-

Paul: Yes, but back to the person who gave the gift. I have a low expectation as to how people will receive honesty. But I have high expectation over time that if I am honest about something, that where there’s truth that needs to be said in a relationship then if I keep bringing it up, pacing it, so maybe it’s once a month, bringing it up and it’s just short little things. It’s words that the Spirit can use in that person’s life.

Ann: Hmm. I feel like in my own life, people that have spoken truth to me, has been one of the greatest gifts that I’ve ever received because it’s changed me, it’s made me look inward and ask God, “Is this true?”

Paul: Yes.

Ann: and then to lay it before Him, I think that can be an amazing gift that’s done in love.

Paul: Yes, yes

Dave: I mean the other aspect that you write about in the book is not just looking and feeling compassion, speaking the truth, but a dependence on God in the middle of that. What’s that all about with love?

Paul: It is the third for me, most striking feature of Jesus is His complete and utter dependence upon His Heavenly Father. When we do our prayer seminars I write out on the iPad, which goes on the screen you know, “I do nothing on my own. I do just what I see My Father doing.” And I ask people that this was overheard by a young guy in his twenties who said this, what would your concerns be? People, I encourage them to put on their Christian judging hats [Laughter] and people-

Dave: We’re pretty good at that.

Paul: –they’ll talk about the guy has a kind of a weird relationship with his dad, a little too dependent and it’s actually a quote from John 5:19. It’s actually Jesus’ self-description of how dependent He is on His Heavenly Father and it’s a description of His will, how submitted it is. And the will, it was one of the hardest things to see was how strong my will is. Like, if my wife has been overly critical of me, or–you could flip this either way. What I hear down in my soul is, “You are my unworthy husband. With you I am not well pleased.” [Laughter] you know, right?

Ann: Yes.

Paul: Then that shapes my will and my will, my will says, “I refuse to let you treat me that way,” and so then I have to lash out in honesty. So, what happens then is honesty becomes a weapon that I bludgeon her with.

It’s that will, maybe I need the humility that comes from her at times maybe being overly critical of me. Maybe my soul needs that because I am overly proud and [Laughter] actually that’s true. You know our family, we were Oregon pioneers and German sailors in the merchant marine, we were very independent westerners, very self-sufficient. So, what I need most of all is to realize that I, like Jesus, I can’t do life on my own. The problem with the will is that internal demand that so much–it’s us, we can’t even pull away from us. It’s so strong. Here’s a quick example of this in a non-marriage situation. But as I was chewing on this and beginning to see how strong my will was, Kim had come downstairs to the first floor with the stack of her Richard Scarry books, she was like 10, 11 years old-

Ann: –and this is your daughter that’s disabled-

Paul: –yes, our daughter with disabilities and she wasn’t speaking but she signed to me to help her. She wanted to go down to the basement and watch TV and read her books. So, I grabbed her books, and I was following her down. She was carrying a box of crayons and halfway down the basement steps they spilled. She was kind of going down on her seat. It would have been too hard for her to walk and carry the crayons and they spilled and because I was thinking of that, my will being–even my will to help, was so strong. I did the Jesus thing. I called it the Jesus question, “Kim, do you want me to help you?” And to my everlasting surprise she said, “No.” By the way, helping you meant helping you pick up the crayons.

So, I just sat at the top of the stairs and watched her pick up crayons and it was slow for her to pick up a whole tin of crayons. And it was probably one of the first times that my will was checked. Again, it was a will to do good, but it was, my will was so strong, bent on–because I really did want to help her, but also, I have a passion for efficiency and effectiveness, and I can run over people. Even in wanting to do them good. It’s something I have to wrestle with every week and it’s slowing down the interior life and not running over people.

What was it like to sit at the top of the steps? You know Jesus meets me there. It’s a mini fellowship of His sufferings. I’m quoting Philippians 3:10. It’s an okay place to be. It’s just being still and Kim gets the respect of a question as opposed to I’m always her helper. If you see me with Kim out in public, you’ll see Kim open doors for me, and I do that because - Kim and I - we’ve talked about it - it’s good for exercise for Kim. So, I’ll actually it’s kind of a joke between–”Kim open that. Come on, you can do it. Push.” And I look like the world’s most selfish guy [Laughter] but it’s part of–you know it’s the sweetness of her becoming a person.

Ann: I’m listening to this thinking; one I need to slow down. [Laughter] Two I need to be quiet more, you know-

Dave: Here’s all the things I’ve been trying to tell her. [Laughter]

Ann: -I’m serious like Paul you’re pausing, you’re listening, you’re waiting before you say something-

Dave: –You’re looking

Ann: –you’re looking. These are things in a busy society and a busy culture and a busy life, as a mom you have a job, you have kids, you’re trying to get dinner on the table. We’re so rushed we try to be so efficient but so often we’re missing these momentous occasions of connecting to our Father.

Paul: Yes, yes

Dave: Yes, it’s like we’re missing life.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You know there’s this sense Paul sitting with you that you’ve lived a few years and you’ve learned how to love.

Paul: Yes.

Dave: –Not just book titles, you’ve actually learned–and I’m not, of course you’d say, you’re the first to say you’re still learning but it’s like wisdom to us young guys. [Laughter] No, it’s like wisdom to my generation, the next generation, it’s like just slow down. Even like don’t listen to this podcast on 1.5 [Laughter] or 2 times fast. That’s what we do because we don’t have time to just listen to it at normal speed. No, you need to live life at normal speed and look and feel and pause and depend on God and your life will be so much richer.

Paul: Can I close with one of my favorite stories on Jesus?

Ann: Please.

Shelby: Sometimes slower is better. Yikes. Who’s listening to this right now on 1.5? [Laughter] Dave Wilson got you, didn’t he? Well hang on because Paul is going to share one of his favorite stories on Jesus here in just a second.

I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Paul Miller on FamilyLife Today. Paul has written a book called Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus. This book is an encouraging and really convicting look at the life of Jesus on earth. And through that lens gives us practical implications and answers to questions like, “How do you love someone when you get no love in return?” and, “How do you love when you have baggage of your own that you’re bringing into a relationship?” Those are relevant and important questions.

Well, this book that he’s written is our gift to you when you partner with us financially here at FamilyLife. You can go online to or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, ‘F’ as in family, ‘L’ as in life and then the word TODAY.

Now if you know anyone who needs to hear conversations like the one you heard today, would you share this program from wherever you get your podcast? And while you’re there you can help others learn about FamilyLife Today by leaving us a review. Okay, here’s Paul Miller’s reflection on one of his favorite stories about Jesus.

Paul: The very first resurrection appearance of Jesus, Mary Magdalene has come back the second time. She’s weeping, there’s a couple angels in the tomb, and she’s talking with them. If they know where the body is? Jill would be that way, like if she even cares–if she had something on her mind, she wouldn’t care if she was talking to Moses. [Laughter]

Ann: I like her!

Paul: And then, she turns around and there’s Jesus standing there just looking at her. He’s been watching her whole conversation and He’s not said anything. And He says to her, this is all in John 20, I’m not making any of this up, and then He says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? What are you seeking?”

I mean, He’s just cracked the code that has held all of creation in death and He’s looking at one person. He’s just, he’s attentive to one person and He asks her questions. And then she says, Jill part two Mary Magdalene, she says, she ignores Jesus’ questions this is Jill. She doesn’t care what Jesus is thinking. She didn’t ignore the angels; she doesn’t know it’s Jesus obviously. She’s so focused on Jesus body. She so madly in love with Jesus, she’s so offended that they’ve stolen His body that, I mean what could you want with His body? She says, “Do you know where,” she thinks He’s the gardener. She says, “Do you know where His body is?” That’s when Jesus says, “Mary.”

His announcement that death has been destroyed, that hell has been broken and that billions of people are going to come to faith and that there’s going to be a new heavens and new earth and He Himself is the first piece of that resurrection, is one word it’s her name. It’s the name of a person. I mean it’s so–the way He leaves space so that she can enter that space so that we can discover what Mary Magdalene is like and so I mean she’s–it’s just, it’s pure Jesus.

Ann: Ah, my friends, like our listeners Jesus, the creator of the universe.

Dave: He stands at your doorway.

Ann: And He calls your name.

Paul: Yes.

Ann: And the question is, will we respond to it? Like Paul, thank you. Being with you, I mean I’m in the gospels, I’m in the Word every day but I’m going to re-read, like I challenge our listeners, let’s go back and read Luke, read John and really see Jesus.

Dave: Yes, I feel like we just did, I really do. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and feel like–I’m a pastor. I’ve preached that John 20 passage at least 30 years in a row and you just walking us back into it and I see Him. I know He sees me, and He sees our listener.

Shelby: Now coming up next week Don Everts is going to be joining Dave and Ann Wilson in the studio to talk about Discovering Your Gifts, how God can specifically use you in your unique gifting. That’s next week. We hope you’ll join us.

Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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