Before you can stand up for truth you have know if you can stand it at all.
Let’s talk about an unscientific study I have been conducting all of my life. It has to do with truth-telling, and how much people really can’t stand the truth.
By some fault or miracle of genetics and nurturing, I recently discovered I am an Enneagram 8. It was a relief to discover there’s a group of people who fall into the same category as me and I am not alone in my quest for leadership, but also my natural desire to help people.
One way that I have always seen as a way of helping people is by pointing at the elephant in the room and saying: “There’s an elephant in the room. Let’s talk about THAT.”
You will probably not be very surprised at how many people would rather be squashed by or shat upon by an elephant, than acknowledge its presence.
Basis of the study: Can you even see the truth?
First, I want to acknowledge that my quality of calling out and naming the spades has not always been intentional or nor helpful. More often it’s been like: duh… you can’t see that??? Really? Tiffany Haddish before there was Tiffany Haddish.
It more often than not earned me a “100 percent that Judgy Bitch” title, long before Lizzo came around.
Note These Two Truths I had To Learn to See
- Truly, it was weird when something looms HUGE and obvious and everyone was ignoring it. And yet that exclusion was true. They were doing it!
- Over time, I came to learn that people apparently wanted to experience something called “tact” in their lives. I had to learn that by way of studying compassion.
What is the result of my unofficial, lifelong scientific truth research, calling a spade a spade?
Well I am only part way through the study but can offer these early results.
In this first part of my study I made these findings and hypothesis:
Finding 1: People actually can’t see the elephant.
Hypothesis: Many have experienced trauma or pain, and thus have worked long and hard to block truth’s reality out of their lives.
Finding 2: People don’t like to hear the truth. It makes them anywhere from uncomfortable to super angry, or just plain confused.
Hypothesis: If something doesn’t exist, how can it be true?
Finding 3: People either really like truth-tellers, or they don’t.
Hypothesis: “The unconscious wants truth”… and those who hear it and recognize it feel better (some eventually) because of it.
This leads me back to the original question about “standing in your truth” or “standing up for truth.”
(And you know this is about to get political.)
What is truth?
If we start with the very basis of truth represents an acceptance of facts… then we can try to avoid the more philosophical discussions of truth. But my argument lies in right at the door of facts themselves: What if the facts point to a truth, and we still refuse to accept it as true?
This happens everyday… and is happening right now in our current political system. We have two mainline rhetorical truth structures running parallel two each other: One that our president is a manipulative criminal based on facts. One that our president is a savior and hero (theoretically based also on facts).
I play my hand on which sets of “facts” I believe– because that is the nature of our human experience.
We can choose the facts we wish to see and accept that as “truth.” I can’t for the life of me see the “facts” that the Republican party accepts and puts forward as valid or even logical.
However I do accept that they must ALSO be saying the same about my truth-viewpoint.
How Can we Stand (Up for) the Truth?
I have enough friends who are passionate about their beliefs that they are willing to take them to the streets, to protest. They even try to convince their family to change their minds about things — such madness!
So if we can accept that a whole heap of people think you and I are just plain crazy liars, how do we address this conundrum? How do we fix the apparent immolation of integrity and the environment is occurring at the moment and help those the wrong, the bat shit crazy, the broken of the world???
Well, truth is… we can’t. We can’t attack the beast that does not exist.
We can only charge at the one we are responsible for, tame and tend it as best we can. Here’s some ideas:
- Be Well in Discomfort. Be ready to not know what is ahead, or to have the answer. When by having the answer, we assume we have all the facts, and all the correct facts.
- Make space. When I disagree with others, I close them out of my life. We don’t have to agree or disagree… that’s a weirdly Western way of clinging to the idea of “black and white” or “right and wrong” or “John McClane or Hans Grueber.” It’s ok to make space — be OK without bashing a side.
- Listen. Take time to read Rev. Leslie Takahashi’s “Listening is an Act of the Heart” which is used as a UU responsive reading. Read it again and again, as a daily primer for letting compassion lead the way to understanding truth.
- Work from a more basic and loving truth. The spiritual-not-religious organization Unity teaches five principles that are a fair way to guide a more basic truth seeking. They are not far off from the UU’s seven principles.
The first of both of these: The inherent worth and dignity of all people.
This principle may sound easy to apply: it is not. Start by considering the most abhorrent people you can consider and meditate on their inherent worth and dignity. If we can apply such consideration to murderers tyrants and thieves, imagine how we can do with our neighbors.
If truth is hard to work with, consider its synonyms: Honor, Integrity, Accuracy, Principles
As a journalist, I was trained in research. We don’t just interview one quack and toss some crap up on the page. The truth in any article is not necessarily “factual”; it is nuanced and layered and had many sides.
Consider the synonyms when you are truth seeking. My son’s Junior Air Force ROTC unit requires them to act with “honor and integrity” in all aspects of their school experience. This means being respectful online, with friends, with teachers. Not cheating. Doing homework on time. Showing up when you said you be there.
When truth is a question and not the answer, then I have to frame it as an opportunity to learn. The assumptions that I have been carrying with me everyday of my life may point me in one direction– but we all know their are at least 359 other degrees to choose.
That much is true.