Truth is a complicated thing.
I was raised to be truthful, to never lie, to honestly speak my mind without someone letting scare me into silence. While growing up I was reminded of those principles a lot by my mother who was a fighter for justice and freedom having seen and suffered so much injustice during her childhood and adolescence in Hitler’s Nazi Deutschland. And I always admired her for standing tall, holding on to her beliefs and wisdom, showing no fear at all no matter who tried to make her sway or even stumble.
When I experienced my first little crush and asked my mother for advice she told me if you love someone, tell it, if someone hurts you, say it, as nothing good comes from keeping things to yourself. I took her advice to heart, always keeping in mind not to hurt someone and not to do harm.
Now, almost forty years later I’m not too sure if my mother wasn’t a tad too harsh, too strict. While I agree that honesty is extremely important I’ve learned that truth can be very scary for those who you make face it and that it even can have destructive traits.
Crime writer Patricia Cornwell made her heroine Kay Scarpetta sum it up perfectly in her novel “The Last Precinct”:
“Truth is relative. It’s about timing. It is about what is safe… Truth can destroy, and therefore it is not always wise or even healthy to be truthful.”
Where do I go from here? Is it better to keep things to myself or to speak up?
All of my life keeping my thoughts and most of all my feelings to myself was never an option. I always carried my heart on my tongue, often spoke faster than I could think, and I always believed that things can be cleared and even bettered when talked about openly. I got wounded a lot along the way and still tend to many scars.
I learned the hard way that being truthful is not always helpful and sometimes even not healthy. When it comes to politics I know where truth ends, betrayal starts, power is abused of, and freedom dies – and that, standing on the “wrong” side in a dictatorship, it can cost you your life. Living in a democracy, choices are easy: speak your mind, let no one stop you, but be open to argument and consider all kinds of perspectives.
If we’re talking about relationships it’s not so different but sometimes even more important to let diplomacy rule. I’m often not very good at it I admit and surely have hurt a few people on the way – never on purpose but probably because I lacked alternative or the wisdom to veil the truth in a cloak of mercy, and I have no words for how sorry I am about that.
But does this mean that I should consider to lie by omission? Could I if I wanted to?
Yet, I haven’t learned to keep my feelings to myself.
If I love, I do it deeply. And maybe sometimes I feel too much. I have understood that some people can’t handle it. Maybe they are too afraid to let someone love them or they fear to be loved is not just a gift that is given freely without asking for anything in return. Maybe it’s something I don’t understand.
So, it might be wiser not always to lay my cards on the table showing hearts. But wouldn’t that mean to hold love hostage? To play it safe so that no one ever knows how much I care? Isn’t that the path into loneliness? And how should we trust each other if we are not truthful? How should we experience real closeness if our hearts are not open?
I believe in the need for truthfulness, that it’s important to be honest with each other, that it’s fundamental for trust. I understand the fear, the vulnerability that comes with opening up and letting someone come close, maybe even get under your skin. I know how much this can scare you. But at the end of the day, what can happen? You can get hurt, yes, but you won’t die.
So, I’ll go on being my honest, out-spoken self. I’ll try to get better at dishing out truth with a gentle hand. I’ll go on risking to be heartbroken, even destroyed. It doesn’t mean I don’t regret. I do … especially if I scared you and so made you walk away with my heart.
What about you?