“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes” is one of my favorite quotes. It captures the angst associated with truth-telling. Standing in your truth requires real courage. Unfortunately, it feels like all too often, truth-telling, honesty, and transparency are not valued. Additionally, listening, hearing, and responding to truth can be even more challenging for many of us. A passage in a little-known part of the original early Christian Bible says, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Truth telling, and listening is the key to our healing and wholeness.
Speak up! Showing up is essential to our mental health. Our airwaves are filled with shows that feature folks “baring their souls” or having their truths unearthed. Testifying is part of almost every faith tradition, in part because bearing witness and sharing stories of resilience and struggle is essential for health, wellness, and community connectedness.
I spend a lot of time talking about trauma, toxic stress, and its impact. I am amazed at the consistency with which I hear young people telling me that they don’t tell the truth about their worries, fears, or stressors—the impact of trauma in their lives—because they fear or believe that the adults in their lives do not want to hear their truths. Or conversely, they have been told that their worries are insignificant, and essentially to “suck it up.” I hear this over and over again, so much so that I’ve begun to believe there might be some truth—real truth—in their words. I also hear so much internalized blame and shame from women. Too often, women come up to me after a training or event and share something about their woundedness and their shame around their woundedness and vulnerability. This cycle—the shame, guilt, and silence—numbs them and frequently gets in the way of having meaningful relationships with themselves and others. My heart also breaks for the men who share their worries about the fate of young men in their lives, the stress of shouldering the weight of caring for and protecting their communities, and the utter despair that comes from receiving constant reminders both directly and indirectly that many people feel they are falling down on the job. (That idea completely dismisses their work and worth, along with the structural barriers that are designed to make them feel disempowered.) I leave these conversations with a heavy heart, sometimes overwhelmed by the fact that far too many of us are suffering in silence.
Our families, relationships, houses of faith, businesses, cities, communities, and governments frequently fester, die, and/or become toxic because of secrets, dishonesty, silence, and a real lack of transparency.
So, imagine with me how life would be if we agreed to be more fearless and receptive to truth-telling and truth-hearing. Imagine if we all agreed to commit to and with each other to make room for truth-telling and bearing witness. To hear the stories of loss, pain, stress, struggle, and woundedness. And also to hear the stories of celebration, accomplishment, and joy, where no one felt the need to dim their light or withhold their truth.
What if we agreed to be honest with ourselves, and if we could not see our full selves, each of us would have trusted supports that would provide us unconditional encouragement, lovingly reflecting what they see?
What if our organizations, businesses, and leaders made commitments that showed truth-telling and living with integrity are their number-one priority?
What if this becomes the gold standard—accepting that sometimes you have to tell the truth even if your voice shakes?
I am not naive. I understand what I’m asking.
Truth-telling requires vulnerability. And we are often so guarded (or so wounded) that it’s hard to let our guard down. But know that it’s the only path to healing and wholeness. Brene Brown, a famous researcher on vulnerability, has found that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Simply put, our liberation and freedom are tied to our truths!