KEY FOUR: BE HONEST
TRANSFORMATIONAL QUESTION: Am I telling my truth
and listening to the truth of others?
Telling the truth is always a challenge for us. We tend to tell people what they want to hear. When we look for acceptance or approval, truth is often compromised.
When we are really honest with ourselves, we realize that we often don’t know what is true for us. Saying “I don’t know”
is the first step in being honest. It is better than “making up” a story or telling others what they want to hear so they will
It begins a process of self-discovery. We begin to ask “What is true for me here?” That question brings us into self-communion. And it is there and there alone that we can encounter the truth.
To hear the truth, you must listen for it. You must get quiet. You must drop down beneath the swarm of contradictory
thoughts and feelings we call “monkey mind.” Monkey mind is just a jumble of confusion. There is no truth there. You
have to go deeper.
So you stay with the question and sink down into your heart. You allow yourself to relax and to breathe. You let the breath slow the mind down, so that there is more space between the thoughts. It is in this space that insight and guidance come.
Truth always comes when you sit with something long enough. The question is, “Are you willing to sit? Are you willing to be patient?”
Speaking the Truth
When you have spent sufficient time in silence and self-communion, truth emerges. It usually does not hit you over the head, but whispers gently to you. Guidance and clarity often come with a calm and peaceful voice.
Truth is organic. It emerges or unfolds. It rarely erupts or smashes through. Be wary of the authoritarian voices that command, demand or stir you up. They usually come from a place of wounds and hidden agendas. There is a storm brewing behind them. Wait until the seas stop swelling and the winds die down. And then see what the voice is saying.
When the still, small voice of truth whispers to you, let it come in and be with it patiently.
Let the truth be spoken in every cell of your body. Be with the truth and integrate it before you speak it or act on it. There should be no impulsivity or haste in your encounter with truth. On the other hand, there should be no procrastination, hesitation or unnecessary delay.
There is a right time to speak the truth and a wrong time to speak it. There is a right way to speak the truth and a wrong
way to speak it. Here are a few necessary guidelines:
- Don’t attempt to speak the truth to others when they are not listening, when you or they are upset, busy or preoccupied with other things. Create a relaxed and sacred space where you will be able to speak from your heart and be heard from the heart. (Refer to The Affinity Process Guidelines).
- Speak gently using “I “statements so that you are sharing your truth without any expectation that it needs to be true for others. Don’t beat the other person up with your truth, but don’t apologize for it either.
- Ask for acceptance, not agreement. Love is not based on agreement. It is based on acceptance and mutual respect.
- Speaking and hearing the truth is a complete act. Nothing else needs to come of it. Commentary is unnecessary and no decisions need to be made. Take some time to be present with what has been shared. Don’t ask for a response or give one. Just let awareness sink in and you can discuss it later when you are ready.
Truth is best spoken in sacred time and space. Creating the right time and place to share with others from your heart
greatly increases the likelihood that you will be listened to in a heart-felt and respectful way. Sharing with love in your heart and your voice increases the likelihood that the other person will experience your communication not as an attack, but rather as an invitation to greater intimacy.
Honesty is a two way street in any relationship. Being honest with others sets the tone and invites others to respond in kind. You can further support honest communication by learning to listen to others without judgment or commentary. Listen so that others feel heard and accepted. Don’t add your two cents. Don’t judge, criticize, evaluate or give unsolicited feedback. Don’t go off telling stories from your own life that may have been triggered by the person’s sharing. You are there not to comment, but to understand and accept what is being shared at face value.
Most of us listen with our judgment caps on. We hear what others say through our own beliefs and filters. We respond, evaluate, and offer our opinion even when it is not asked for. Is it any wonder that people feel unheard, if not actually judged and attacked?
Remember “What you think about someone else is none of their business.” They don’t need to know the judgments
that you are making about them. Knowing these judgments would not be helpful to them and it certainly would notencourage them to trust you.
Don’t blurt out your judgments. Be aware of them and take responsibility. See that your judgments say more about you than they do about anyone else. Your judgments show you aspects of yourself that you have not learned to love and accept. Your compassionate awareness of your judgments can be a doorway to healing the fear and shame associated with your childhood wounds.
Don’t project your judgments, your wounds, or your beliefs onto others. Let others have their own experience. See what others trigger in you as a gift that enables you to go deeper in your own healing. Don’t dump your stuff on them because you are afraid to look at it.
Learning to listen to others is a real art. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly. When you hear the truth of others, you are
the witness. You behold them in their process. By refraining from judging pro or con, you remain unfettered and free to
think and feel as you do. You do not get involved in their drama. You may see it. But you don’t own it or take it on, because it belongs to them, not to you.
Witnessing the Truth
By accepting what is true for the other person at face value, the witness conveys the idea that “you are okay as you are.
You don’t have to show up to please me or anyone else.” The witness has no desire to change you or to fix you.
You are already okay. There is nothing in you that is lacking or broken. You don’t need to be reformed. You don’t
need to be saved. You don’t need to be fixed.
This is an existential affirmation. It says, “I recognize you as an equal brother or sister. You have your life and I have
mine. I respect your journey, even as I claim my own.”
The witness practices equality and mutual respect. The witness upholds the dignity of each person’s experience. S/he does not judge, criticize or blame, but merely sees what is true for others and honors it.
The witness understands the tyranny in the need for agreement or approval. S/he knows that it is an insecure person who demands that others have the same experience or the same beliefs. Insisting on agreement makes life rigid and bland. It destroys diversity and spontaneity, both of which make life interesting and fun.
The truth is that people are different. They do disagree a lot and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Disagreement leads
to discussion and synthesis. It engenders a creative process that helps people discover the best answers to the problems of
life. To be sure, it can be carried too far. People can lose sight of what they have in common. They can polarize and come
to a standstill. Extremes are not helpful.
The witness does not expect anything. Sometimes s/he agrees with others. Sometimes she does not. But s/he always
accepts the other person’s point of view and experience.
When we stop looking for agreement, truth can no longer be threatened by differences. Differences are accepted as the
price of authenticity and freedom. We give each other permission to be honest. We create a safe space where everyone
can speak and be heard.
The Language of Love
The language of love does not allow for judgment or criticism. It does not support discrimination or prejudice. It does not
precipitate rejection or intimidation. It does not result in manipulation or cruelty of any kind.
The language of love is all about acceptance, encouragement, support, understanding and respect. It uplifts others.
It does not put them down.
The language of love does not insist on agreement, because it wants people to be free to make their own choices. Love is
not based on agreement. You can disagree with someone and still love that person.
That is something each one of us must learn to do. It is an essential part of our spiritual practice. To be sure it is not easy.
Many of us reject others because they look different from us, have a different skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. We
want everyone to be like us, look like us, behave like us, and believe like us. We love others, but with conditions.
Conditional love is simply a way of withholding love from those whose differences threaten us. And when you are withholding love, it is a short step to withholding rights or justice. Whomever you withhold love from, you are trespassing on.
So be honest with yourself. If you are a man, do you accept women, even though you may have a different experience from
theirs? If you are black person, do you accept white people, even though you may have a different experience from theirs?
If you are straight person, do you accept gay people, even though you may have a different experience from theirs? Can
you have a different experience, a different belief and a different perspective from others and still love and accept them?
Each one of us has work to do here. We all have ways in which we withhold love and acceptance from others. When
we become aware of these ways, we can question them and allow our love to flow freely again.
Giving and receiving are the language of love. One naturally leads to the other. If you try to hold onto love or you build a wall around your heart so that you cannot receive it, you will only hurt yourself.
When you tell the truth to yourself and others, use the language of love:
- Encourage, support and respect the other person, even if you disagree.
- Speak with love in your heart, without judging the other. If you cannot do this now, wait until you can.
- Don’t seek agreement. Accept the differences between you.
- Don’t shut down your heart and push the other person away. Be open to receiving love in whatever way s/he can give it.
- Don’t withhold your love from the other. Give your love freely.
Facing the Truth
When you tell the truth you bring light into the darkness of conditions. You make the hidden things clear. You let the other person know what you are thinking and feeling. You let the other person into your mind and your heart.
Telling the truth is an act of courage. It enables us to find a deeper intimacy with each other.
It is a reality of life that feelings change and that people change. We fall into love and out of love with each other. We
enter a career only to realize that it is not what we truly want to do. We make commitments in good faith that we cannot keep.
When you are unhappy, your unhappiness must be faced. You must tell the truth, first to yourself and then to the others
who share your life. If you are miserable in your marriage or your job, you cannot ignore how you feel. You cannot put on
a smiling face and pretend to be happy forever.
Sooner or later you must face the truth and share it with others. The risk, of course, is that others will get mad at you,
leave you, or shut down emotionally. To minimize that risk, it is helpful to use the language of love and to speak the truth
in a safe place.
There may be a price to be paid by telling the truth, but there is a bigger price to be paid by living dishonestly or in
denial. When you tell the truth, you claim your freedom to be authentic and emotionally congruent and offer the same
freedom to others. Of course, some people prefer emotional or physical security to freedom and are not likely to be
thrilled by the invitation. But that is their choice.
You cannot hold yourself hostage to another’s choice. You must make your choice and allow them to make their own.
Commitments are important and they should be honored when they can be. But you cannot force someone to love you
or to stay with you, nor can you force yourself to stay with someone you no longer love. To do so would be to violate the
Spirit in both people.
Love and freedom always go hand in hand. When you love truly, you love freely and without conditions.
The Truth Will Set You Free
The transformational question asks, “Am I telling my truth and listening to the truth of others? ” It asks us to bring the light
to the shadowy places in our hearts and minds and to the shadowy places in our relationships. It asks us to put all the
information out on the table so that we can have the freedom to decide what is good for us. When we become aware that
we are not telling the truth, the question helps us to find the courage to speak up.
Unspoken words can derail a relationship. People show up with their masks on, pretending to be happy when they are
not. And then something unexpected happens. Perhaps there is an affair or an unexpected rupture of trust that seems to
come out of the blue. But it is simply the shadow rising up to be acknowledged.
When truth is not honored as part of an organic process, it erupts suddenly, unexpectedly. People are hurt, abandoned,
or betrayed. Old wounds are reinforced and reactive behavior patterns triggered. That is the price of denial.
The spiritual practice here is to bring awareness to the truth of our hearts and to have the courage to speak it to those who
are affected by it. When truth is told, appropriate adjustmentscan be made to the way we live our lives. Commitments can
be renegotiated or revised so that we are better able to keep them. The form of our work and/or relationships can shift to
better reflect the content of our consciousness and to allow love to flow freely and unconditionally.
We can allow for change when its time has come, instead of resisting it and repressing the underlying feelings seeking
acknowledgement. This allows change to happen more gracefully. Our lives do not have to be smashed in order for the needed change to occur.
When you are on a spiritual path, living in denial is no longer an option. You must be committed to living in truth, telling your truth, and accepting and respecting the truth of others.
The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
You can tell the truth to others without telling them every detail. Telling long stories makes it hard for people to listen and
grasp the essential content. So keep the story short and focus on what the person needs to know. On the other hand, don’t
withhold information that is needed for others to understand what is happening for you and how it affects them.
Tell the whole truth, but not the whole story. Don’t omit important details. Don’t try to hide, obscure or re-shape the
truth to make it more palatable. Sometimes the truth is not palatable.
Trying to protect others can actually prolong the pain. So be direct. Say it straight. Be clear. Be honest. Be transparent.
When everything has been put on the table, awareness goes to work. Illusions are dropped. False assumptions are
corrected. A new and more honest picture emerges.
Truth unburdens us. It clears the clutter from the path. It makes straight the way. It sets us free to live an authentic life.
Important Things to Remember
- To hear the truth, you must listen for it. Truth always comes when you sit with something long enough.
- Telling the truth is an act of courage. It enables us to find a deeper intimacy with each other.
- When truth is not honored as part of an organic process, it erupts suddenly, unexpectedly. People are hurt, abandoned,
or betrayed. That is the price of denial.
- There is a right time to speak the truth and a wrong time to speak it. There is a right way to speak the truth and a
wrong way to speak it.
- When you speak your truth use the language of love. The language of love supports, understands and respects. It
uplifts others. It does not put them down.
- Ask others for acceptance, not agreement. Love is not based on agreement. It is based on acceptance and mutual respect.
- Listen to others so that they feel heard and accepted. Don’t add your two cents. Don’t judge, criticize, evaluate or give unsolicited feedback.