Sometimes when I use the word "truth" I can see people fidgeting or looking a little uncomfortable. They seem to think that it means that they will be caught at something, something difficult will happen, that whatever joy they have carved out will somehow be damaged, that their business or personal dealings will not survive the scrutiny of the truth. Frankly to many it seems too virtuous or not viable in today's complex society. But what if the truth was an attribute that could not only support your success and happiness but allow it to expand? It sounds more interesting from that perspective.
A Solid Foundation
Truth really is the basic building block of all of our relationships and all that we do in life. All of our business endeavors are based on building positive and mutually satisfying and lucrative relationships. If we do not "tell" the truth, expect the truth from others and value the truth then we are constantly unsettled, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We have no real trust in our relationships and in the reality we are creating.
It has been interesting lately for me to recognize what encountering a lack of truth in two important relationships has cost me both in my personal and professional life. I have also seen this in the lives of clients and those around me. I have experienced first hand the discouragement that comes with being lied to and the ways in which it can undermine one's sense of a benevolent and supportive life. What is lost in many of our personal and professional experiences that are not based on truth? What is lost is a solid foundation on which we can build and that can support anything real or good happening. Unless truth is present relationships and endeavors quickly become a house of cards - one that can easily be destroyed. And surely we want all of our efforts, all of our plans and visions to be supported by a stable and strong foundation.
Of course there are different levels of the truth, if you will. For instance, when we tell a "white lie" to shield someone else's feelings or to protect ourselves we feel that is allowable and even normal. But what happens if those customary lapses in the truth begin to support the ease with which we allow larger transgressions to go unnoticed? Let's look for a moment at the simple ways in which many couples begin to allow falsehoods to be a part of their relationships. Small lies creep in. Perhaps we begin to discover that we are hiding more from our spouse or partner than we are revealing.
What gets damaged in that process? The wonderful first flush of attraction and interest in each other diminishes. Our relationships don't mature and grow. There is the beginning of a wedge that only grows larger as the years go by. As this goes on our trust in the relationship is eroded. We lose a chance at real intimacy and the opportunity to be accepted just as we are - something for which each of us yearns. A small act of omission can lead to a huge detrimental outcome. Everyone loses in that equation. When this is repeated in various relationships our ability to form healthy and alive relationships is deeply damaged.
Our Larger Interests
Let's jump to a larger playing field. What occurs when an entire population is lied to consistently and egregiously? We find ourselves in wars that we don't agree with. Quickly we are in escalating conflicts and the need to support the house of cards with more lies leads to deeper and more far reaching damaging acts. In big business, for instance, with the Enrons of the world, a whole population of workers loses their life savings. We can only imagine the suffering and despair caused by both of these scenarios. Once again, with repeated lack of truth, we grow a population that becomes disaffected, cynical and not willing to believe in anything, a population that has no belief in leadership. A population that loses the ability to create positive meaning from their existence is a dangerous breeding ground for all that plagues humanity.
Truth as Being!
Truth, I think, is like a verb. It requires our involvement: telling the truth, standing for the truth, supporting the truth etc. But beyond that it is an attribute, a quality of our very selves that when transgressed leads to loss of contact with our own inner navigation system, our own sextant, our valuable internal intelligence. The degree to which we are not told the truth is often the degree to which we cannot recognize it. This separation from the sense of truth in our own selves hobbles us from seeing our way towards our best and therefore most successful selves. We may not have been told the truth about our real abilities and talents. Either these were not recognized and supported or we were told things like we were slow, had no talent, or our ability at an art would not get us anywhere in life. Our ability to discover what is most natural and precious to us may have been distorted and when this is continued we lose the capacity to see it for ourselves.
So often when I work with clients, as a coach, I find that they do not know what it is that they realty want in their lives, what they are capable of or even what will satisfy them. They feel somewhat unmoored and live life from day to day more than slightly unsatisfied or trying to satisfy what they imagine others want. They can't discern the next important step. They have lost their ability to recognize the truth for themselves. I believe this comes from a steady and gradual build up of assaults to one's sense of truth and harmony, repeated breaches of trust, and eventually a loss of ability to trust.
How can we regain our contact to this precious and essential attribute? I think you can begin to notice in small ways when you chose not to tell the truth. Notice what is fearful to you about it. What do you think you will lose? Is the immediate perceived gain worth the damaging of your relationships or your deeper more precious contact with your spiritual self?
Without judgment notice what it feels like in your body when you are separated from the truth. Notice what it feels like when you realize you have been dealt with outside of the truth. Not being able to trust in our relationships and life is very scary for human beings.
Notice when you are still relying on old messages about yourself that may not be the truth. If there has been a deep breach of trust in your life rediscover what you love about yourself and about life. See if you can start to mend the disrupted connection to something deeper in you. You can experiment with how to do that. For some, time to themselves to read something inspiring is a support. For others time in nature. Spend time with friends who you innately trust. The road to the Truth is really the wonderful journey back to your true self.
Native American culture has 4 steps that support this necessary process:
"Feel the truth of what you are and at the same moment act.
Risk yourself for what you know is right and true."
—Fredrick Douglas, escaped slave, from an Independence Day speech
Connie Butler is a nationally-recognized professional coach and author, who has been building bridges between different approaches to human growth and development for nearly 20 years. As a coach, she is committed to becoming a dynamic collaborator with her clients, in the development of their lives, their businesses and, ultimately, in their satisfaction.