“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ~Gloria Steinem
Several times of late I’ve run into questions of truth. There is a friend who has been living a lie and is grappling with what it might mean to show the world who she really is. There is the woman who knew from the beginning of her marriage that her husband was oppressive, yet went along with it for years before she finally felt strong enough to be honest with herself and leave the marriage. There was a Wall Street exec I listened to on the news who knew that what she was doing was unethical and dangerous, yet participated out of greed and who still cannot state the truth of that.
There are many ways that we skirt the truth. There are outright lies, of course, but more often than not the truth is bent or obfuscated or utterly bypassed through other more subtle means. We know something is happening but we tell our selves it is not (denial). We know the truth but are afraid to think it, let alone speak it aloud (repression). We know the truth but we choose not to live by it (self-betrayal). We can purposefully leave out what is not convenient to our story (a half-truth). All of these acts can and do make us sick– physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually sick.
Freud’s “talking cure” was the modern rediscovery of the fact that the truth, ignored or repressed, makes us ill. Conversely, speaking the truth, however harsh or ugly or unsettling, will indeed heal and set us free. And science is now, at long last, catching up to what many have known and taught for centuries: that disease begins in the mind. (“You’re only as sick as your secrets,” as they say in the recovery movement)
Ah, you say, but aren’t there many truths? Yes, and no. I have my truth, and you have yours, but I believe there is also The Truth with a capital “T”: the great, overarching truth that we all know in the core of our beings. We come in bearing this Truth; it is part of our essence, our individual soul. It can just as easily be called Love or Beauty or God.
Acknowledging the truth, speaking it aloud, is what heals us and makes us whole. It is vital that we acknowledge the whole truth of our lives, including that which we consider unacceptable, frightening, or trivial. Divorce, sexual orientation, abuse, addiction, is all just as much a part of what makes us who we are as the more “acceptable” aspects. You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. On a national level, acknowledging that our pursuit of what has been called our “independence” and “manifest destiny,” and “western expansion” entailed the decimation of an entire race of the original inhabitants of this country as well as the enslavement of millions of others to do the hard work of nation building. These little facts were conveniently limited or entirely omitted from the history I was presented in my elementary education.
It takes enormous energy to live outside the truth. That energy, returned to its natural flow, brings us back to who we are: unique individuals reflecting the Divine. The truth, whether personal or metaphysical, connects us to the Essential, the eternal. Apart from it we wither and become distorted images of ourselves. In harmony with it, we flourish and find peace.