Unwrapping the Truth

The truth doesn’t always come in a pretty package. More often, it arrives when we least want to unwrap it, kind of like that proverbial fruitcake you dread getting for Christmas from your maiden aunt Gertrude who can’t bake.

Many times, it’s our closest friends or family members that deliver the truth. (Strangely, though, it’s often your closest friends and family that will work hardest to hide it, too!)

You can’t choose your family, except for husbands or wives, I suppose. And often, the person we choose to spend our lives with changes beyond recognition as time passes.

Then, we have to choose: Do I stay because I love the whole person, or do I stay because I’m holding out for the person who I thought I knew, the person who has been long gone for many years?

We have to start life by being honest with ourselves. Who are we, really? What story do we tell ourselves about the world and our place in it? What strengths and weaknesses do we bring to each day, each relationship? What kind of people do we want to surround ourselves with?

Once we’ve answered those questions, and I really think they have to be revisited over a lifetime, then we have to choose how we will interact with others. Are we going to put on masks to try and earn approval or get ahead? Are we going to help people without letting anyone help us? Are we going to tell people the truth even when it hurts or hide our heads in the sand because we’re afraid of taking the risk of living and speaking and acting with integrity?

And when we’ve chosen honesty, we must prepare for the fact that many people will interpret it as a personal attack or a judgment on them. I know I do! If someone says something to me about a composition and what could be “better” about it, I jump to the (false) conclusion that they are saying I’m not good at what I do, that my art is wrong or has no value, that they know better than me how things “should” go. Then, it’s hard for me to just be analytical, take their suggestions, consider them, taking the ones I find valuable and disregarding the rest. I get too emotionally involved, and my main emotion is a bruised ego, anger, and feelings of worthlessness.

Which, obviously, does neither me nor my art any good. Then I start with, “Oh, just suck it up and deal! Don’t be such a wussy! You know they’re right, even if you don’t like it, so just shut up, quit your whining and fix it! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and move forward!”

So we come to the question: How does one say something that really needs to be said without making the hearer miserable? And, come to think of it, it’s not really us that’s “making” them do anything! They’re the ones choosing to be angry, hold grudges, whatever.

For me, I think every dose of honesty has to be mixed with an equal measure of compassion. Take any judgment out of it, because we are no better or worse than the next person in line. We’ll get our own dose of the truth soon enough, and it won’t be handed to us wrapped up in a pretty box of fine chocolates.

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8 Comments on “Unwrapping the Truth”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Truth is often hard, rather than affirming. Yet if we needlessly blow a person away with truth, we have done them a disservice, just as if we withheld the truth. I think that there may be times when we should hold back, simply because there is no readiness to receive something that needs to be said, but it is a difficult thing to discern. For ourselves, we need to get past the gift wrapping and welcome truth wherever we can find it. We will benefit, if we allow a little time to get past the knee jerk reaction.

    Keep the insights coming!

  2. ombudsben Says:

    I try to temper what I have to say with something postive, too. Try to affirm some part of their effort. If at all possible I draw a distinction between the person and an action or behavior. So it isn’t them that I’m finding fault with, it’s an act apart.

    I had a good friend on college who felt that the truth often hurts. In fact, in being critiqued he looked at a little bit if sting as validation that something was true. Still mulling that one over, myself.

  3. halfnotes Says:

    Glenn,

    Yes, that balance is a challenge. I think we often are too much in a rush to show how much we’ve figured out, forgetting the “readiness” part, as you pointed out.

  4. Carol Says:

    I try to say it as sensitively and tactfully as possible, and try to think of how I’d like someone to say it to me if the situation was reversed. As far as hearing it, a lot of how I take it depends on the source. If it’s someone who I know really does have my best interests at heart, I generally take it with that in mind.

  5. halfnotes Says:

    Ombudsben,

    I don’t think the truth always has to be painful, either. But often, if we’ve overlooked it for a while, it can be a little disconcerting to have a mirror presented to us.

  6. halfnotes Says:

    Carol,

    Ah, yes, I’d have to agree with you there. That’s why I try to get behind the words (which many people don’t use with much tact or sensitivity, anyway) and see what’s prompting someone to say them. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Grace Says:

    This was a wonderful post….a lovely reminder that the Truth is like a sharp knife. If we use it mindfully with compassion as you say, it can be an instrument of healing for both ourselves and others (like a surgeon’s scalpel). But if we weld it consciously, it can cut to the core of a person – leaving them bloody and wounded.

    As an Aries, one of my lifelong challenges has been regarding speaking my “Truth” in a way that brings Freedom, not pain. Excellent to read this !! Many THanks!

  8. halfnotes Says:

    Grace,

    You are so right about the knife! And too often, I’m so anxious to show off it’s shiny, sharp blade that I forget that I can and do draw blood until it’s too late. I’m a Virgo, so I’ve got that nasty perfectionistic and analytical streak that can make me merciless. But I think I spare my worst tirades for myself, which of course isn’t healthy, either. Lessons, lessons everywhere, and the same ones over and over again for a lifetime.


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