Ouch. This one hurts. Not because it might happen, but because it has. It does. It will. I don’t feel like I have great certainty on many things in this life (isn’t that just a kick in shins – the older I get the less I know – what is this?), but I know this one thing to be true. When we own our truth, when we live with clarity and purpose, there WILL be people that don’t like it. Not because they don’t like us, but because honesty and truth tell the fake and empty world to get lost. Being who you were created to be, who you are at your creation core, flies in the face of society that wants easy, low key sameness. Authenticity is threatening. Truth is convicting. Especially to those that are not comfortable with honesty.
When I first faced the reality that I was an alcoholic and addict, just saying those words out loud was gut wrenching. I knew it to be my truth. I knew that the chaos that I was making in the midst of binge drinking and crushing pills was ruining my relationships and my soul, but others did not. I can remember sitting over meals with friends telling them that I was in treatment and later as I made amends. I would summon the courage to tell the truth about my actions and behavior and often, more times than not, it went back to them.
“If you are an alcoholic, I can’t even image what you think of me.”
“If you think that story is bad, what about the time _____”
When we shine the light on our own truth, others have a choice. They can chose to look inward and search for the truth of their own life, or they can run. This single defining moment, even when not recognized as such, shapes relationships forever. To be fair, the journey of opening to truth is not instantaneous. For some, there is a time of observing truth telling that opens the possibility that honesty is freeing. In watching the inner work and acceptance grow in other people’s lives, they are willing to live into a way of life that changes things. But, there is always a moment. The moment when your inner voice says, “What if I really freed myself from the expectations of the masses and honored the only voice that matters, my own?”
This transformational question is a gift. It’s a beautiful, scary, glorious, terrifying gift that quiets the rules and expectations of family and religion and culture. For most of us, these weighty bags have defined careers and relationships and behaviors. They have shaped parenting and marriage and friendship in ways that we can’t even articulate. The ‘should’s’ and ‘we’ve always done it that way’s’ and the ‘but that’s not normal’s’ have prevented us from owning and loving things about ourselves in the name of loss prevention. The fear of disappointing a parent, pastor or friend has prevented us from claiming the very things that make us who we are.
Because I believe in practicing what I preach, I need to be honest with you. I have allowed this single “What if” to drive my adult life in ways that I am terrified to admit. Sure, I have lived 90% of my truth in some very public forums. I have talked about things that many wish that I would keep to myself. As a good southern woman, I have deeply embedded the lie that there is no need to invite the neighborhood to see my girdle and pantyhose on the clothes line – keep those things in the privacy of your own bathroom. Many of my public stories probably cause both of my lovely, proper grandmothers to clutch their pearls as they roll over in their graves. I know.
But that 10%, that remaining hidden (or at least purposely avoided) portion is terrifying to admit. I love a good shocking conversation. I love to throw a bomb in the middle of the room in the form of disagreement or unpopular opinion, but that’s not what we are talking about here. The hidden part is not the getting a tattoo to be different or to piss off your parents. The hidden part, the real and vulnerable part, is telling the people that love you that your tattoo is more than a middle finger in the face of traditionalism, it is actually marking the place on your body that was violated or the area that you cut because you just needed to feel. The 10% is the truth- the honest, humiliating, no-holds-barred truth- that shapes your being and honors all of you. But this truth is brutal. It allows others to see and know the pain. And for people like me, pain avoidance is priority #1 on most days. Pain numbing is my first instinct. To go to the 10% place is to choose an uncomfortable and unfamiliar road. One that could cost me relationships, not because of me, but because seeing me telling my truth calls out their truth. And much like the courtroom scene with a fiery Jack Nickolson as the mouthpiece, “You can’t handle the truth” is real. The loss of people comes not from a rejection of my truth, but a denial of their own.
So if you want to get real, get ready. People will walk away. People that don’t walk may pull away. It happened, it is happening and it will happen again tomorrow. But, before we conclude this conversation, I have one final thought. Real truth is transformational. Sometimes coming to terms with our truth is not just accepting, but embracing that the people that we love don’t have the capacity to love our truth. The only version of love that they are capable of loving is the facade. And yes, this will require the relationship to change. From all human perspective it will require loss and death in relationships. But what if, as we live into truth, as they see that our truth only creates a more loving and capable and whole human being, they open themselves to a new dimension of growth? Our truth telling, though it feels like loss, is often the death that is required for resurrection to take place.