How are you?
How many times have I held back answering that question honestly because I didn’t want to deal with the responses that would follow?
Being honest and truthful is a powerful practice to soften the edges of the ego, drop pretense, and help foster more intimacy in the community, but our culture doesn’t make this easy…
How many times have I…
Admitted an insecurity or a character flaw only to have someone try to make me feel better?
Discussed a hardship in my life only to have someone offer me advice on how to fix it?
Offered advice or flattery to another person rather than being truly present with their sharing?
What could be a moment of openness and sharing, where the boundaries between self and other evaporate into the vast sky of Being, instead turns into a canyon of separation. Of course, advice and soothing words have their place, but I feel if we are truly listening, we will find they are useful far less than they are said. Often they lead me to feeling misunderstood at a time when I am vulnerable.
Many spiritual teachers, therapists, and others have commented on how these responses come from a desire to relieve our own discomfort, and I feel this is true. Because we can’t sit with our own pain, we can’t do so for others.
Every time someone shares their suffering with me it is an opportunity to look within at my own resistance, and every time I resist sharing what is truly on my mind it is another opportunity to do the same.
But what fascinates me most about this is that we lack a culture for sharing difficult experiences. It is so far out of the bounds of our social framework that it puts us at a loss of words. We don’t know how to respond. And how could we expect it to be otherwise? Since we don’t know its OK for people to be real, we assume they must want us to fix them if they are doing so.
Changing our culture is difficult. It is far more difficult than changing politics, but also far more profound. I wish I had some big solution for this, but at this moment I can at least talk about its importance, and I can vow to intensify my efforts to be real with my friends and family and to allow them the space to do the same. This is how we normalize Truth.
“Always tell the Truth.” -Neem Karoli Baba