I healed myself through telling the truth all the time.
“You don’t have to tell them EVERYTHING.”
“Can’t you just do it and not say anything about it?”
For the past few years, I’ve been working hard on being honest and transparent in all situations, and the results of this have not always been pleasant. I have made people angry, been forced into difficult and painful conversations, and lost several loved ones along the way. Some of those who know these stories have often given the advice, above, and I’m sorry to say that too often I have taken it. Especially in the last few months, things in my life have been hectic and fraught with the disapproval, anger, and disappointment of loved ones, and I have, little by little, reverted to old patterns of—if not exactly lying, at least slanting the truth in ways geared toward revealing only those parts of the truth I knew wouldn’t result in pain. The funny (not-so-funny) thing is that although this has helped me to avoid pain, it has not brought me peace. The opposite, in fact. It seems the more I have reached for peace over the last few months, the more illusive it has become. I didn’t understand what was happening to me until recently, when I picked up a book by Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity, and the following words practically leapt off the page to settle directly into my heart:
“When we deliberately leave our own truth, we live in a foggy world where nothing we experience feels trustworthy or reliable, because we ourselves aren’t trustworthy or reliable.”
This is what had happened. I had left the truth.
Not in huge ways, not even by deliberately lying, but by hiding. Hiding little bits of truth or slanting truth when I knew revealing everything would result in pain. Brad Blanton, in his book Radical Honesty, says that when we tell the truth, we are free simply by describing what is so. I had built myself a cage.
There is only one way out, that I know of, and that is to do what Elizabeth Gilbert calls an “integrity cleanse.” It is to do what I described in an article I posted over a year ago:
Speak the truth, as kindly as you can.
Every goal (or every goal I can think of that has dominated my life for the past few months) must come secondary to this one. I must lay aside my efforts to keep the peace, make people happy, play by the rules—even the goal of building good relationships must come second to speaking the truth (a good relationship can only be build on a foundation of truth, anyway, and any relationship I must lie or hide to keep is an unhealthy one). In short:
I must be willing to pay the price of whatever truth may cost me.
This means telling people I don’t want to talk when I don’t answer their call, saying “I don’t want to come” rather than making up excuses, letting people in—even just a little—when asked how I’m doing and the answer is not “fine.” It means no longer hiding parts of me I’m ashamed of or embarrassed about, revealing things people might not want to hear, risking the loss of relationships that full disclosure could destroy. It means sharing things I know could cause anger, resentment, pain, etc. and no longer taking on the responsibility of other people’s emotions.
Because I have experienced first-hand the peace that comes from honesty and the discord that comes from hiding. And I am convinced it is only in revealing the truth that God can lead us, on step at a time, in the direction we are supposed to go. I am convinced that truth is the only door that leads to peace.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Christ.”