“What if the truth makes me a bad person?”
A girl said that to a guy on a TV show when he asked her what she was really thinking.
Seems the first thing we think of, doesn’t it? This need to appear as angels to everyone else, often at the expense of what we really think, or want.
This need to be loved, appreciated by everyone we meet, whether we know them or not, or whether they’re worthy of our regard seems ridiculous. Illogical.
He says “I’m moving this weekend. You’ll help me, right?”
I had something else planned for that weekend. I don’t know – maybe I had an out of town trip planned with my girlfriend. So I say “no, I can’t”. And he seems disappointed, and maybe puzzled. He thought we were friends. In his opinion, I should have immediately said “yes”, because that’s what he thought friendship meant. That I would put him first when he had need.
(The truth: of course I can. But I choose not to, because I’m prioritizing my relationship with my girlfriend. That’s my true choice.)
Maybe that’s a bad example, but it’s the one I’m going with.
He doesn’t know that my girlfriend and I have been having some problems lately. He doesn’t know that this weekend getaway was planned so that we could pay attention to each other and no one else, hoping we could work things out. He doesn’t know that it’s been stressing both of us, and that we really need this time.
Instead, he assumes that I think he’s just not important enough. And maybe, because of the unfocused illogical guilt I’m feeling, and this need to stay on the “good” side of his friends list, I second-guess my answer and say “look – I’ve got something planned but maybe I can get out of it and help you out.” And he sighs in relief.
Happens all the time, doesn’t it? We’ll self-sabotage in order to “keep the peace” by which we mean “make sure people love us”. We’ll even sacrifice people we do love in order to make sure someone else doesn’t feel put out by our selfishness.
Women in particular do it all the time. I know because they tell me. Not in so many words, mind you, but it’s there. Their husbands or boyfriends called them a slut (not in a good way) and yelled at them for not coming home on time. Or they did worse things. These women have friends who have successful marriages. Also, they go to church. They have children. Also, he apologized afterward, saying that he was too drunk and didn’t mean it.
Seems better to them to give him another chance (chance number 452 but who’s counting). ‘I didn’t really have a choice” they say. “I had to stay for the sake of the kids, and our home, and because people look up to us as Christians.”
Maybe I’m wrong – you can tell me – but it seems to me that there’s nothing the least bit dignified about sacrificing your truth because you think that it makes you a “better person”. Or a “good person”. You’re not a hero for holding onto that disrespectful or abusive relationship or that job or acceding to the demand for help just because you don’t want to be seen as a “bad person”. What you are, bluntly, is a pushover. You’re not a nice guy or nice girl or dependable or any of that other crap. You’re an emotional doormat. Doormats aren’t appreciated. Not really. What they are, is used. People wipe their dirty feet on them, knowing they won’t complain. People don’t even worry about a doormat’s opinion. A doormat has no real valid opinion anyway.
I’ve seen what happens – I’m sure you have too. People eventually stop being doormats. They have no idea how much resentment was building in them, until one day when they finally explode. When they demand a divorce or they flip out on their friends – and the person on the receiving end of this is surprised all to pieces. “He’s lost his marbles” they’ll say – because they’re so confused about the origin of the drama.
So many of us aren’t faithful to our truth. We’ll take care of our bodies, and we’ll take of our kids, and our bills and our spouses or boss or whatever, but we neglect our truth. It’s the last thing we think of, and we think we’re saints because of it. Unless we’re making blind people see, or lame people walk, we aren’t saints or heroes.
Being faithful to your truth means telling the truth. Sometimes silence can convey truth.
A comment from a co-worker such as”I think that guy is a retard” can be met with silence. Body language and a refusal to verbally comment is a way of telling your truth.
“You’ll back me up on this, right?” can be met with a stare. Or you can say “no” (which is better) “I won’t. I think you’re wrong.”
And here’s what I’ve found: once you start telling your truth, and being faithful to it, people stop asking you for a blind acknowledgement of their nonsense, of their racism or of their cruelty or even of their guilt-driven demands of you. You exude truth and aren’t afraid to speak it. They know this, and they’re afraid to ask, knowing you’ll say exactly what you think. I was actually quite amazed by this. There have been so many times when I was waiting for a traditional “hey, back me up on this” statement, ready to speak my truth, only to find that the person wasn’t interested. They knew what I’d say.
“No, Bob. I’m not going to help you move.”
Feet square, eyes forward, looking right at him when you (or I) say it. No apology, no explanation, no “I would but” or “I’d like to but I can’t”. If Bob decides that this means you’re not really his friend, then his standards aren’t yours anyway. A friend would have asked “if you’re not doing anything, that is”. At the very least he’ll understand that you choose to help him when you truly want to. It’s a deliberate choice when you help him – and all that much more appreciated because of it. You’re not a doormat in that instance. You’re a balls-to-the-wall standup guy (or woman) who knows what he wants, doesn’t shy away from it, and makes his own decisions on his own terms.
I have found that the more you practice speaking your truth, the easier it gets. It’s actually addictive. You might lose some friends. (I did.) Then again: you begin to attract other lovers of truth – after which you can have some amazingly intelligent and thoughtful discussions.
This is not new for many who read this. Others though might find it hard to imagine, or they might think they don’t have a problem with truth. Some homework, if you’re interested:
Every day for a week, ask yourself at least once during the day “how am I not being truthful?” Write it down somewhere. A week later, take it out and read it.
I think you’ll be surprised.
I’m going to do this too, by the way – because I think even those who think we’re truth-tellers often find that there’s some way in which we’re not being truthful.
If you’ve already gone down this road, let me know how it’s worked out for you. I’m all ears. Eyes. Whatever. : )