I admit it. Telling the truth is hard for me. No, no. It’s not that I am a pathological liar. Although I think I probably was….when I was five. But I grew out of that by the time I was about….uh…..married? And I only used it to get what I wanted……and keep my tail out of trouble. I usually got what I wanted, but I was lousy at that second part.
While lying isn’t a problem for me anymore, telling the truth, my truth, is painfully difficult. And apparently I am not alone.
Last night, I enjoyed a very nice teleconference with Ronna Detrick on Truth Telling in Extravagant Ways. She told the Bible story of the woman who annointed Jesus feet with expensive perfume and washed them with her hair. I’ve never before felt a kinship with this woman. I mean, according to everyone else who tells the story (everyone I’ve ever listened to anyway) she was the town prostitute: a very very naughty woman who had to be forgiven of MUCH sin. Hence all the theatrics. MUCH sin requires much drama and emotion and displays of affection.
Ronna told the story of a woman who was perceived by the community in a certain way, but who went to Jesus and told her truth extravagantly. She went to him and allowed her emotion to shine through…extravagantly. She revealed what was most true for her…extravagantly. She acknowledged her own feelings and reveled in the feeling at the feet of the most loving and kind teacher…extravagantly.
And for the first time, I had a reason to relate to this woman. She didn’t swallow up her emotions. She didn’t tell herself that he wouldn’t have time for her or that he wouldn’t be interested in her. She just went for it. She let him know exactly how she felt. She made her needs known. She told her truth, and she did it extravagantly.
I’ve raised (am raising) four of the most beautiful, courageous, and strong women. Power oozes from their veins. And yet, in some ways, I feel as though I am failing them. That strength, that determination, that “push through no matter what it takes” feminism has left them almost powerless to tell their truth. I can’t take all the credit for this. I assign plenty of blame to the expectations of middle class society.
Drama and hysterics are unwelcome around here. Rational, thoughtful conversation is prized. Not questioning the system is highly valued. Don’t be a trouble-maker is the undercurrent.
Truth-telling is rarely neat and tidy and free of drama. In our clan, there is a family gene for crying. Too often, truth-telling equals buckets of tears, and we all despise those tears. It means throats that seize up and swollen mascara-smeared eyes, and since men tend to look at a woman in tears with the confused German shephard look, it’s just better off avoided.
Unfortunately it also means passion pushed down, dreams set aside, stress bottled up, and unfairness allowed to go unchecked. It means resentment that boils and bubbles inside and eats away at our bodies. It means conflicted emotion and a feeling of being powerless. And it means walls get built around our hearts. Impenetrable walls. It sucks.
But why do we do it? Why do we squash our truth so completely in order to keep the peace, get along with everyone, and avoid conflict? Is it just not worth it? Is there some horrible fate that awaits our truth-telling?
Yes, and my girls have seen it happen to me over and over and over. They have watched as I have spoken my true passion only to spend the next several days, weeks, and months trying to pick up the pieces. They have seen the consequences of a world that does not value truth-telling. They know well the persecution and the childish back-stabbing that adults are capable of inflicting on non-conformers. And it sucks.
So how do I communicate to them that is is worth it to speak their truth? How do I model the benefits of owning and making known the “know-that-you-know-what-you-know” that’s inside? How can I show them that the tears are a part of the process and it’s okay to let them spill? How can I let them see that opening up and being who they really are is not only respectful, but admirable? How can I help them accept the fact that the disapproval of others towards our truth is not our problem, but that of the other person?
Guess I’d better model telling my own truth with confidence and emotion so they can see me grow stronger in the process.
Ronna, how big’s the couch in your office? Got space for five?