We’ve all told a (white) lie at some point in our lives. If you happen to be this rare person who has never been guilty of it, please contact me. I’d love to meet your parents and do some research on your environment. Most of us grow up in environments where we are taught to be “polite and kind”. And that the truth is impolite and unfriendly. We learn that harmony is more important than confrontation and that our needs are less important than the collective good.
Fortunately, times are changing. People seem to have less problems telling each other the truth, though somehow this phenomenon has been interpreted negatively. It is seen as a side effect of our individualistic and egocentric society. We don’t seem to care about others anymore, as long as our needs are fulfilled.
But as usual the truth (better said: my truth) lies in the middle. I think we need to speak the truth and we can perfectly do so without hurting anyone. To the contrary, in this post I’ll explain why (and how) telling the truth is far from egoistic and can positively influence the people around you and yourself.
Why we hide the truth
Let me start by telling you why I think we lie in the first place. In my opinion, there are two reasons to do so. Either because we don’t value ourselves or because we don’t value the other (which by the way, are very closely linked to each other, but that’s a different story).
When we don’t value ourselves we fear that people will reject us for our truth. We fear that our truth has no right of existence. Indirectly, we think we don’t have a right of existence if we don’t tell the other what we think he wants to hear. It almost seems like our value comes from the appreciation of others and not from what we really are. Therefore, we decide to put up a mask, hide what we really are and instead show others what we think they would like to see.
If, on the other hand, we don’t value others, we think the other couldn’t handle our truth. We think he or she might not be capable of dealing with our truth, that he or she is not mature enough to receive the truth and deal with it like an adult. In a way, we underestimate their emotional capabilities which for me is a sign of disrespect.
Why we should tell the truth
Obviously, telling the truth is not about individualism and egocentrism, but is actually about respect and trust. Unlike most people’s belief, it’s not going to hurt your relationship, but is actually going to help it. By telling the truth, you automatically stop sabotaging your relationship in more than just one way.
First of all, telling the truth creates less tension. Once someone knows that you don’t avoid telling the truth, he or she will feel a lot more relaxed around you. I never noticed how much of a relief it is to be with someone who unapologetically, but respectfully tells the truth until I met my current partner. He has the gift of telling me what he thinks right in the moment. Some people only tell others the truth once the entire issue has accumulated and grown into a major issue. These situations can end up in huge explosions which can do more harm than good. I guess it’s clear that it’s not the truth that has to be blamed here, but the fact that we didn’t manage to tell it at the right time.
Anyways, my partner always tells me pretty soon, what I noticed makes me very calm around him. I don’t have to wonder whether he’s having a problem with me or not, because I know he would tell me if it were the case. I know that I’m always up to date which is truly a wonderful feeling. In a sense, his honesty provides me tranquility and calmness instead of anger and resentment.
Feeling at ease around someone makes it easier to have a deep connection with someone. Another reason it’s easier to connect, is because it’s easier to trust someone who tells the truth. Especially, if the person has the gift of telling you the truth in a non-hurtful way, you’ll find yourself trusting this person and valuing their input, because they can help you improve yourself. I mean how else are you going to find out your human flaws if no one tells you? We all have some blind spots when it comes to our human shortcomings which other people simply find easier to spot. The truth should be regarded as a gift rather than an offense. And believe me, when done correctly, you’ll notice people thanking and respecting you for confronting them with the truth. Unless they are not ready yet for the truth, but that’s not your problem.
In my opinion, this has to do with the fact that telling someone the truth is an act of kindness. I don’t always tell everyone the truth, it’s something I do for people I highly respect and care about. In a way, it drains my energy to tell someone the truth. I need to really tune into myself and to the other in order to make the message come across effectively. Oftentimes, when I don’t really care about a person, I just decide to keep quiet since I’d rather save my energy for the people I truly care about and with whom I want to create a deeper connection (this, by the way, doesn’t count when the person asks me directly. In that case, I’d always tell the truth).
Apart from being beneficial for your relationship with others, telling the truth also brings you peace of mind. You don’t have to continue telling yourself stories about what you think about a specific person or how he or she has treated you. Once it’s out there, it’s generally out of your mind which leaves you with plenty of space, time and energy for other, probably more positive thoughts and actions.
Do we always have to tell the truth?
You might be wondering where the truth has its bad reputation from if all it brings is positive things. Well, there is an art to telling the truth. Randomly running around and sprinkling nuggets of truth is not going to bring you many of the above mentioned results. When I first felt the liberating effect of telling the truth I had (and still have) the tendency to tell as much of the truth as possible, but I quickly noticed there’s more to telling the truth, than just telling it.I need to do it more mindfully and I need to THINK before I speak. What do I mean with THINK? Before I speak, I ask myself: Is the truth? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? And is it kind? These points speak for themselves, but it can be tricky at times to judge in the heat of the moment whether or not to speak the truth. In that case, just feel into your intention behind wanting to speak the truth. Do you want to tell someone something so they feel ashamed or so you can make your point? Or do you want to say it because you genuinely hope for the other to make the best out of your well-chosen words? As I mentioned, not everyone will be equally grateful for your truth (remember, this is your truth and not necessarily the truth, what is the truth anyways?!), but as long as you THINK before you speak and you speak with the best intentions, you can be sure to have improved some relationship, be it with the other and/or with yourself.