-Gandhi (by way of my friend Walter)
Note: A “Google” search for this quote shows it most commonly written as “Be truthful, gentle and fearless.” However, Walter’s rendering (and his timing in sharing it) resonated deeply with me, so this is what I’m sticking with. This is the second in a series of blog entries based on each line.
Be truthful. Some levels of honesty come more easily for me than others. “Cash register” honesty for instance. Or saying what I like or dislike, so long as there is no risk that it will offend others.
Other levels of honesty get tricky for me. Not because the “news” is earth-shattering or difficult in and of itself, but because I don’t want to disappoint someone. I remember reviewing a written moral inventory with one of my 12-step mentors. I sheepishly confessed: “I am a people-pleaser.” She considered this for a moment (I had provided some specific examples from my life as evidence thereof), then she replied: “Calling yourself a people-pleaser simply dresses up the truth: it would be more accurate to say that you are a liar.”
Her comment shook me up for an instant but it was a welcome shakeup. I knew in my gut that she was speaking the truth. Her brutally direct assessment healed me while my own self-assessment felt like treading water; at best — it got me nowhere.
I have a disorder of the ego. My human tendency is to look to others for love and approval. My people-pleasing — my unwillingness at times to speak my truth — comes from a place of fear at losing your love and approval. When I operate from this inauthentic space, it taints whatever love you may offer. This comes from forgetting the constant Source of Love that is always sufficient.
This kind of truth-telling has nothing to do with making others wrong. It is not hard to recognize when I am in such a space; if I find myself tempted to recruit others to my view, if I find myself looking for folks to affirm and agree with my “position,” I am in trouble. I am not just treading water, I am flailing about in the quicksand of “my story.” If that is where I am coming from, I haven’t completed the work I need to do; I am not trusting God to be my companion and my source.
To get to that place of being both gentle and truthful, I need to be willing to tell a story that is simply about me and what God seems to be willing in and through me. Another’s story is not my business; it is that person’s story to tell.
Living in community — in unity with others — includes a willingness to be vulnerable, to share my story, and to allow others the chance to respond as they will. Their response is not my business.
This kind of vulnerability comes through grace, the same grace that is present in all the glorious messiness of life. If we each do our little part, striving toward a personal authenticity that respects the other, that same Grace will make sense of it all, in due time.