The older I get the more I revere kindness. It is the quality I look for in all personal interactions. It is the litmus test for accepting offers of work and the deciding factor in considering a new friendship. Extended to animals, plants, strangers, family, friends, lovers, the environment, a single act of kindness can change the course of life forever. Many years ago I decided to stop lying. It wasn’t like I was some kind of pathological criminal mind, I was just the garden variety “tell them I’m not home” kind of white liar. It started out as an experiment – could I go an entire day and only tell the truth? As it turned out, telling the truth all the damn time was much harder than I imagined. The hardest part was developing the discipline to discover when I was actually lying and the myriad ways little lies replaced simple truths all day long.
It is so easy to choose a lie over the truth. Simple questions which permeated my day were often responded to with a lie. “How are you?” “Are you ok?” “What’s wrong?” “How was your weekend?” “How was your meal?” We lie under the guise of being polite and well mannered. There are countless opportunities everyday where, in simple and profound ways, we unnecessarily lie to ourselves and others in the name of kindness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Once I realized this I embarked on a quiet journey of self vigilance and truth speaking, just to see if I could. In the process I learned several important things. Simple truth when spoken aloud is often monumentally shocking. People don’t expect to hear the truth and, frankly, don’t want to hear it. Truth cuts through bullshit like nothing can and almost always opens a space for connection. A simple truth offered up can open the door to others speaking their truth – suddenly standing on a grocery line or sitting next to someone in an airport a brief but profound sharing can occur. I have also found that many people do everything in their power so as to Not Connect. Nothing disconnects like a lie. As an aunt of mine once said in response to telling the truth, “Oh for goodness sake what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know you never tell the people you love the truth”?!! She was serious.
There is another version of my truth that I have however worked very hard to temper and hopefully eliminate altogether. It is the use of my truth as a weapon. There were times in the early days when I cavalierly sliced and diced, wielding that sword with impunity. The outcome was anything but Lovely.
Like any road that leads to freedom there is a toll to pay. Freedom ain’t free. I have lost friends, and I have definitely lost a cussload of family in breaking the unspoken agreement and named the Elephant In The Room. When you dare to voice that Cousin H is not “sensitive”, he is gay, or that JT isn’t sweating cause she’s hot..she’s on crack!!! or that Uncle Bertie is a son-of-a-bastard who molested his kids and you all knew about it and NO that fucker may not have my dead mother’s TV!!!!!!!…. well.. you tend lose a relative or two. Truth may not always unify, but I believe it is always the kindest course of action.
My personal intention to speak truthfully is just that – highly personal. It is a standard to which I hold myself and with a very clear understanding that “truth”, “my truth”, “the truth” is so relative, it doesn’t actually exist. This code by which I live is more accurately a life commitment to loosely observe the fluid boundaries of perception from my perspective with a heavy under girding of compassion, forgiveness, humor and kindness. It is a commitment to cultivate my own transparency for the purpose of realizing an intimate connection. I also know that we actually cannot lie to each other. A Truth so far beyond our words is always completely known, and always being communicated. Words are probably the least effective ways in which we communicate and often serve as a flimsy screen behind which we try, unsuccessfully to hide. Knowing this, I simply decided to not confuse the issue. Why not have my inside voice be my outside voice through the filter of kindness. It’s just easier. And here is one area where menopause really does help. Most of the time it’s out my mouth before I can catch it anyway….might as well enjoy the show.
I review my actions and question my intention all the time. I try to never get complacent about that because truth speaking can be such a powerful instrument of healing and, like a good scalpel, it can also be one of destruction. I am vigilant with setting my intention to speak in kindness and- just to put another check on my ego- I have added a simple prayer which I try to remember …especially when I’m itching to say something clever or pithy or God forbid, helpful. I quietly whisper, ” Oh, God…let me speak only when spoken through.” That usually shuts me right up….and in that silence….a greater truth comes through.
I invite you to Practice Lovely Acts of Kindness as you speak your Truth.