Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Speaking your truth (and other lies)

I was recently part of a discussion about the idea of ''speaking your truth''.  One person said it was vital to authentic living, another felt it was not only unnecessary but also risked being patently unkind. There were examples shared and when I learned what these particular truths were I was deeply saddened. Maybe it is the truth, but it certainly was not kind or loving. In fact it was, in my view simply an opportunity to justify an unkind action, dressed up as 'truth in love'.

I was intrigued...what did this concept of ''speaking truth'' mean? I did lots of reading - and this blog seems to sum up the concept quite well, particularly because it does so without being too ''new agey and spiritual''. I deeply admire people who are ''at one'' with the universe. Who proclaim to live love. Generally they exude a gentleness of spirit that I can only wish for! Perhaps this was the key? I need to 'speak my truth' more?

BUT, the more I read the more uncomfortable I became. And now my issues with speaking ones truth are many. I am absolutely in favour of being honest. I am absolutely convinced that the truth will always out. That's about integrity. Mores the pity more people weren't honest in this world! But I think there is far more to truth and honesty than truth and honesty.

The proponents of this concept (and every single article I read did this) talked a lot about the importance of being true to oneself.  They remind us that to live a lie is ultimately exhausting or worse, destructive. That to speak your truth is the only way to live life in order to be happy and fulfilled and at peace with yourself. They claim often and vehemently that no-one is responsible for the feelings and responses of another, often coupled with an extra disclaimer relating to karma, reminding us that nothing is right or wrong, it just ''is'' and the ''universe'' has its own way of dealing with things.That it is simply the selfishness of those who don't really want 'truth' that leads to pain. That pain is good if it a result of sharing your truth. Moreover, many of the writings reminded me that I should always offer peace and forgiveness to the person I have spoken my truth too.

That all sounds pretty good right?  Speak your truth! Be honest with your feelings! Share love and peace! So far, so good.

Its good to be honest.  It's important not to lie to ourselves. And it can be incredibly painful to self examine! But to think that speaking my truth in some way negates me from being responsible for anothers' feelings is beyond reproach. The line of reasoning saying  ''I am not responsible for their happiness'' is nearly palatable for me. I mostly agree, EXCEPT that saying things, doing things that I KNOW are going to hurt others surely means I need to own those actions?   ''You must speak your truth even if it hurts another'' is not necessarily responsible or the right course of action in my view - it neatly absolves me, the truth speaker, of owning consequence, as I can conveniently reason that the other persons pain is not really my problem. That I am upholding the true principals of love - essentially holding the truth in my hands and sharing it generously with the world.   By including a message of peace and forgiveness I am able to appear calm, centred, caring, when really it is little more than the Irish blessing ''sorry for your troubles''. (Often a  twee and meaningless response that sounds good but really has no depth at all.)

I totally agree that I am not responsible for the reactions of another person. And nor am I able to ultimately decide their actions. If I say something in ''my truth'' that is hurtful they have a choice about how to respond right? Right - except that I believe I am absolutely responsible for the drivel that can come out of my own mouth, and the emotional impact my words can have. (And believe me there's plenty of drivel....)

If I'm asked ''why didn't you employ me'' and my ACTUAL truth is ''you're an emotional wreck and you'll destroy my workplace'', what right do I have to say that!  Sure, it is possible to speak the truth in love (if you want to step even further down the new age path) - I don't think you're suited for this office...but I am yet to see evidence of anyone who subscribes to this way of thinking actually do that. It is claimed that these words are spoken in ''love'' but my experience of this is that actually it is based on the selfishness of the deliverer... and I make this claim because it seems that ''speakings one truth'' rarely relates to being truly mindful of the feelings of another  (one doesn't often hear about how speaking your truth can be uplifting, supportive and kind - its invariably about how to manage sharing negative stuff - or worse, used as a delivery mechanism of sharing opinion and unkind observations in the name of ''love'').

It is also worth nothing that speaking 'your' truth, as the gurus advise, is quite different from speaking ''the'' truth. It's a fine line, I admit, because, after all perception is reality, as these teachers remind us, and we can apparently only act from our own place of truth and honesty.

My post here on my other blog was exactly that.  That was MY truth, I make no excuse for it.   I was true to myself, gently and discreetly. BUT I did not say ''my truth''. I did not say 'I wish you peace''.  I did not say ''the universe will sort this out, one way or another''.  I said, I cannot support this action. There are consequences.  That is all I said. And I stepped away.  I could have not shared that truth.  I chose to and as a result I must own the consequence of sharing that. I lost a friend. More than one.

It seems that speaking your truth gives you licence to step aside from social norms. All the writers tell me so.  In fact, I'd almost go so far to say that the concept ''speaking/living your truth'' risks giving permission to abandon all else in the name of honesty.

I do not believe that we always ''speak our truth'' from a place of true love for others.  We are human and therefore inherently selfish.  I know I have said many things in my life that were hurtful and unkind and I regret that. I certainly will not hide behind those reactions and call them ''speaking my truth'' (although I like the idea...it seems rather attractive don't you think?).  Morality - or ones own version of it -  rarely figures. This philosophy of adding on the self righteous claim that our truth will lead to freedom and happiness and oneness is, frankly,  a blatant way of avoiding being responsible for the consequences of this truth. There's a reason I might add 'you can't handle the truth'' during an outburst. Because it's true. And in fact it is probably not my place, I think, to be forcing someone else in a position of having to handle anything because of my own feelings, wants and desires.

You see, for me, speaking ones truth means risking disregarding (or at the very least risking breaking) boundaries. Yes there are times when we have to make hard calls. When we see someone we love self destructing. When we feel ourselves crumbling. But there are times and places when it is better for everyone if we either shut up or step away. I will never accept that we should make ''speaking my truth'' a life's work. To continue speak ''my truth'' to an already hurting person is not loving and kind...it is destructive and unnecessary, especially if it was my truth that hurt them in the first place. If it really is THE truth they know it already and don't need to hear it from me, no matter how loving I might think I am being.

So, to all those who claim to want to live by this philosophy I say: sure, speak your truth if that will make you feel better.  But don't think for one minute that speaking it out loud, or acting on it, does not carry consequence. Or that the consequences (including pain inflicted on other people) are not your responsibility.

We speak our truth I think, because it suits our own needs and ends.  We might not admit it but it's true. That's MY truth.

1 comment:

Linda Silvester said...

Funny, I was just thinking about why my teeth are loose, I hold my mouth firmly shut, jaws locked. The thought popped into my head - that I am clenching my mouth shut - not speaking my truth - I am the only one to blame for swallowing the words into a harbour of resentment when I need to say what is troubling me at an emotional level. Speaking one's truth - and there is no "The Truth" only ones opinion. Hypothesis. Speaking ones truth is having the courage to own up to the consequences of ones emotions and actions.