Truth Be Told...

“In a relationship you need a habit of mind that scans the world for things to appreciate rather than things to criticize.” -John Gottman

We all have the friend or family member who feels like speaking the “truth” is an obligation they must fulfill. Are you someone who has to tell it like it is, too? Sometimes? Me too! I’m doing you a “favor,” or “Someone needs to tell you the truth and hold you accountable,” I say in my head when I tell people the “truth,” which is, by the way, our truth, not the actual truth. One can make the point that researchers have hundreds if not, thousands of pages filled with data from research before they can declare something to be right. How is that by just seeing someone’s behavior or hearing one sentence, we can tell them the truth about themselves? It’s complicated to know what each of us thinks at any given point, which would make it impossible for us to understand what someone else’s intentions or real thoughts are. This begs the question, why do we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out other people’s lives, and try to set them straight?

My “truth-teller” label came undone this week when I heard someone say, “Honesty without empathy is brutality.” I’ve never heard that quote before, but it sure made me cringe in pointing out my egotistic view on my “honesty.” I’m ashamed to admit that almost every time I’ve self-appointed myself to tell someone the “truth,” my intention hasn’t been to be empathetic toward the other person, it's been with the purpose of setting them straight or pointing out their wicked ways.

My guilty pleasure is watching reality television. Every week, I look forward to watching other people’s lives play out on, sadly, the shows are popular because there’s drama, and out-out of control ego's get the spotlight because they're entertaining. Most times, people battle it out to keep others “honest” and “accountable.” Everyone is in each other’s business, and there are very few boundaries, especially for sensitive issues that should be treated with care but are not. I sometimes watch the show in disbelief, wondering how someone could behave in such terrible ways, only to later see similar behavior in my own interactions with my friends and family.

On one of the Real Housewives franchise shows, every event revolved around drinking, which then intensifies the drama as each woman attacks each other’s decisions, marriages, and ways they are raising their children. These ladies use words as their weapons to strike each other down, they call it, telling it like it is! Social media adds stressors to the relationships because viewers pick sides and it becomes a mob mentality, us vs. them. I’ve noticed patterns in our human behavior in the shows-- we can be strong communicators unless our feelings are hurt, then we become blabbering messes, unable to communicate directly or empathetically. We tell everyone else how terrible we feel, but avoid seeing or speaking with the person who’s hurt our feelings.

This week, I watched an episode where best friends had hurt each other’s feelings but wouldn’t discuss the problem directly, only through other people, who twisted the story around. They left each other out from events, would publicly talk about each other’s shortcomings but couldn’t bring themselves to speak privately about the original problem that led to so many misunderstandings. I kept relating to so many of the things being said and felt some shame for behaving that way with some of my friends and loved ones. I wondered how I/we, as a society can allow vulnerability to be the last thing we go to, and instead resort to verbal-brutality or point fingers instead of stopping to have an empathetic one-on-one conversation with someone we’re having issues with. We act out, we find solace in the arms of our cockeyed “truth” and choose a path of hypocrisy to cover up for not being brave enough to face disagreements, different points of views or be accepting of someone else having a different opinion and life path. How can we willingly mistreat anyone while we coward behind brutality to avoid vulnerability? This got me thinking, can I change my patterns and learn to think twice before I use “honesty” to retaliate against someone who I believe isn’t living up to my standards? After all, wouldn’t it be better if we intended to create positivity with our words and actions instead of discouragement and negativity? This brings the old quote, “say something nice or don’t say anything at all,” into a new era of, "Other people's lives are not your own--if you have an opinion or a "truth" to tell, be kind or don’t say anything at all.”

In hope, I am fearless.



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