Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Telling the truth

Truth: the true or actual state of a matter.

That's not so hard, is it. The actual state of a matter.

And yet we avoid it, we lie about it, we cover it up, we find ways to pretend it doesn't exist.

No, folks, this is not a political post. I'm just pondering truth these days and why it is so hard to acknowledge it.

Medical conditions, for instance. Why is it that we will avoid going to the doctor, gloss over a symptom, tell ourselves that no, that really wasn't a lump but muscle; no, that really wasn't anything but indigestion; no, the sharp pain in the leg is just because we overdid it.

Acknowledging the truth of the situation can save a life, ease pain, forestall greater harm.

Or why do we avoid friends and family, avoid telling them what is really going on with us, acknowledge to them that what they said hurt, that we really don't like them very much, that we are uncomfortable when they party too much?

Is it embarrassment for ourselves or for the other person? Co-dependence -- we don't want them to worry about us? Fear -- that actually knowing the truth is scarier than pretending nothing is wrong? That knowing then makes it real and we have to deal with the consequences?

And yet the truth eventually comes to light, doesn't it, and we deal with the issue AND the avoidance.

I hate not knowing the truth. My mind is capable of creating immensely complex, terrifying consequences when I'm not hearing anything from my daughter -- despite repeated phone messages and calls. So far, at least in similar situations in the past, the truth hasn't been nearly as stressful as the scenarios I've imagined (may that continue!) But goodgollygeewhiz, I dread the ice weasel parties that are in the planning stages, and the subsequent sleeplessness and stress.

And I don't understand why the lack of communication, the lack of truth.

I have a huge dental phobia -- I don't even like getting my teeth cleaned, and I confess I'm avoiding it right now. I don't want to offend anyone (like the hygenist), but it hurt last time. And I guess I don't want to be judged as a complete and total wimp, and far too old to behave that way at the dentist -- so I don't say anything when I finally DO get in the chair.

And yet who does my lack of truth hurt? Me.

How many of us have hesitated to go the the doctor because we're afraid something is wrong? Denied feeling depressed and worried when we really feel like hiding under the bed and never coming out? Put on a happy face to the world when we're clearly NOT okay?

Who does the truth hurt? Ourselves.

My mother insisted that we tell the truth: she hated lies, and always punished the lie far more severely than she ever did the truth, no matter how bad. I hate lying too -- tell me any truth, but never lie to me if you care about me. Once lost in a lie, trust is nearly impossible to regain.

I don't have any brilliant, insightful conclusions here. I'm just feeling sad about how we deceive ourselves, sad about the sometimes hard consequences of such denials. Worried over lack of communication of the truth, whatever it may be. Fearful of those unknowns. And always trying to balance honesty and truth with compassion and kindness ...

The truth shall set you free. Free to take care of yourself properly, to live honestly, to be who you are without apology. I think I'll make that cleaning appointment in the morning.

1 comment:

MaryContrary said...

It is interesting that you should post this so soon after I finished a little book titled "The Post-Truth Era" by Richard (?) Keyes. The question mark is because I "think" the author's first name was Richard. Many of the points he made were common sense. He cited the usual reasons for lying: to escape punishment or criticism for doing or saying something, to protect the feelings of loved ones or ourselves, to impress people we meet who don't know us very well because those who know us would know we were lying, to gain something we want but which we might not get for some reason or other without the lie, or just because we think we can get away with it. I agree with you about how disappointing and depressing the prevalence of lying is in today's world and fear I may be exercising the fallacy of presentism if I think previous eras were more honest.