I made a mistake recently. Of course this was not my first one but it was a big one.
I hurt a friend.
I cannot take it back.
All I can do is sincerely apologize and ask for forgiveness.
I have done that.
The mistake I made was not telling my friend the ‘truth’.
I did not tell the truth because I knew it would hurt, so instead I lied. The mistake I made was accidentally forwarding an e-mail that contained the ‘truth’ and the truth hurt and offended my friend.
It was not my intention, in fact, I lied so as not to hurt and offend but I fucked that up.
The ensuing awkwardness got me to thinking……When is it ok to not tell the truth?
Is truth really the best policy?
People say that if you are true friends you can say anything to each other; your ass is fat, that outfit looks horrible on you, I hate your boyfriend, or your dream is ridiculous.
I call bullshit! Telling the truth can lead to great pain, greater distance between friends and externally imposed shame.
Who am I to impose MY opinions on you, especially if you do not ask? Even if you do ask who am I to knowingly hurt you? What kind of friend would do that?
We all like to think we are mature enough and strong enough to handle the truth but I am not so sure about that. I want my friends to like me, to love and to accept me as I am. I don’t want my friends to hurt me and I don’t want my friends to always tell me the truth.
What if a friend is making a decision that you know will end in disaster. Is it your job to tell them they are making a huge mistake or is it none of your business? I believe it to be the latter. A wise friend once said, ‘who am I to stand in the way of someone learning their lesson?’
We are given life lessons as many times as needed to learn what we need to learn and every time someone stands in the way of your lesson you have to learn it another way. Often that means more pain and more mistakes on the way to learning that lesson.
I believe it is my job as your friend to support you, to pick up the pieces WITH you, to accept and love you. It is not my job as your friend to stop your growth even when I suspect it will be painful. Whether the lesson comes painfully or joyfully, it is YOUR lesson to learn.
I remember when I met someone after my divorce. He was unlike any man I had ever been with and I immediately looked to others for confirmation that he was ok. I asked a valued friend what he thought of this new man in my life and I shall never forget his words to me. “Rhonda, I love you but it is none of your business what I think of ______.”
I was stunned, speechless and pissed off, how dare he! Here I was asking my friend for validation of my feelings when it dawned on me……here I was, asking my friend for validation of my feelings.
It took me some time to realize the gift my friend gave me in that moment. He loved me enough to not bias MY feelings one way or another. Had he said he hated him, thought that I was making a colossal mistake and told me to run for the hills I may have. If he hated my new man and I chose to continue the relationship would I reach out if I was struggling? No! A forever distance of ‘judgement’ would have been between us, a silent ‘I told you so’. Would I have chose to celebrate the great times with my friend? No and for exactly the same reason, a distance would have been created that would have made sharing awkward and an ‘I told you so” from my side.
Had I been on the fence about the new man and my friend said he was the greatest thing that ever happened to me I may have jumped in blindly without giving the new relationship the ‘thought full’ consideration it deserved.
How many people do you know that have created a riff, a divide, a distance between someone they love because they decided to tell the truth? Perhaps a sister who hates her brother’s wife and tells him or a mother tells her son that she hates his gay lifestyle? Do either of those messages create closeness (which is what relationships are all about) or distance? Which would you rather have? Do you want your son, brother, sister, friend in your life OR only under your conditions, under your truth? How many people go to their graves with distance between those they love, with unspoken regret?
I am not someone who believes in unconditional love with the exception of the love from an animal. I simply do not believe that humans can love each other without condition. However, I do believe in unconditional positive regard, respect and compassion for all. That means I believe that people have the unquestionable right to live their life, make their mistakes without admonishment and learn their lessons.
Who am I to tell you the truth? Whose truth would it be, mine from my life experience and my fears? What if the truth comes from an un-examined religion that does not serve you? Who am I to tell you what the truth is?
I believe the truth according to you may be hurtful to someone you love and is better kept to yourself.
Still not certain? I remember being a little girl who loved to dance; I loved my pink tutu and tights. I loved to practice after school. I loved to dance.
I remember the day I was told I was too fat and not good enough to dance, that I should just stop because people will laugh at me.
The dance stopped in me that day and externally imposed shame grew.
I get that there is ‘reality’ and perhaps I never would have been a ballerina but the ‘truth’ told by a mother and a friend that I was not good enough and too fat stopped the dance in me. Did they do that to purposefully hurt? I choose to think not but the reality is they did and that ‘truth’ created a hole of doubt deep in my soul.
Have your words, your truth, ever stopped the dance (or whatever else) in someone? Have you imposed your truth on someone?
To this day, some 15 years after my friend told me it was none of my business what he thought of my new man my eyes well up. What a beautiful lesson of unconditional positive regard, respect and compassion he afforded me.
I went on to have 10 great years with that new man followed by my most painful and expansive growth to date. My friend loved and accepted me all the way through. I learnt what it meant to value my opinion over what someone else thought. I learnt more about what it meant to stand in my truth.
I believe if you love someone, your friend, your husband, your mother, your sister – you LOVE them and to love them means to accept them as they are. You don’t try to change them into what you think they should be or what you think they should look like or how you think they should behave. It is not MY job to change anyone, in fact there is no greater hubris than to think I know better.
I truly love the people I choose to have in my life. I accept them, warts, chin hair, pimples on their bum, snorting laughter, poor choices in men, unhealthy habits and ALL. I love them for letting me learn the lessons I need to learn. I love them for not always telling me the truth because the truth would hurt me. I love them when they make mistakes for I KNOW there will come a day that I will make a mistake and will want them to love me through it.
My friends, it is my PRIVILEGE to love you.
I promise to have unconditional positive regard and respect for you!
I promise I will not always tell you the truth; I love you too much for that