Truth and Courage

definition of courage

The word “courage” and the word “truth” are intimately connected…in my book, anyway. While the word courage is often identified with magnanimous feats in history, of war heroes and historical figures and fictional super heroes, I think its most important function is as the foundation for truth. Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, speaking your truth takes more courage than most would admit, especially, given the temperament of the world today. Given the blatant disregard for truth that exists within powerful hierarchies and the level of sophistication of the lies told, it becomes an even greater challenge to recognize what the actual truth really is so that telling the actual truth becomes an even more courageous exploit. In order to combat the pathology that a culture of lies create…we all need to embrace the courage to tell our own personal truths first, and then stand together when those talented liars who lie try to attack us for it. Once you stand for truth, I’ve found, it is intolerable to accept or perpetuate lies coming from anybody else. And it is speaking out against those lies where courage is so necessary…because there are plenty of people in the world who are not only content with those lies, but thrive on them.

Stripping down the illusions that I surrounded myself with took the greater part of my lifetime and I found the courage to wipe those illusions away in large part because of my faith and a deep experience of unconditional love of God and also those brave souls who’ve shared the stories of their hearts and showed me a different facet of life through their experiences. Being on the beneficiary side of those personal stories revealed to me a broader truth and with every story a greater perspective. Championing truth requires perspective, and since I only have one set of eyes and limited control over my physical movement I often depend on listening to other perspectives to expand and form my world view. As I’ve mentioned before, truth is not two dimensional, it demands we move and try and see things from a different angles and perspectives. Once you strip your own life from illusions it isn’t as difficult when listening to another’s perspective to tell who is being truthful and who is either lying to themselves or has too high a stake in believing the lie. That was a hard statement to write because am I not prescient (well, maybe a little), and certainly don’t want to inhibit anyone from telling their story, but this isn’t about judgement, its about truth. I want everyone to be able to share their truth…I’m just saying that there are some criteria that I use in deciding whether or not I allow their perspective to shape mine or not.

Fear is the first condition I have for rejecting someone’s perspective. Perpetuating fear is the opposite of courage, and is the true cause of hatred in this world. Please let me be clear, being afraid is not the same thing as rooting one’s perspective in it and using it to justify your choices and behavior. Because fear is the greatest illusion of all, truth cannot exist in someone who roots their ideology in fear (1John 4:18), I don’t care if what they are afraid of is the devil, a political party, race or gender, or an intimate partner. It is embracing courage to face your fears and not be controlled by them that frees your heart to speak your truth. And speaking that truth literally makes you free and will distinguish you from the rest of the population who simply succumb to lies that feed their fears.

The second condition is the willingness to change. This is a bit of a slippery slope, because I certainly am not talking about being malleable, to change in accordance with everybody else. I’m also aware that change happens over time and never all at once. I’m talking about the willingness to make necessary changes that must be made in a person’s life when things aren’t working, or honesty when you decide you’re just not ready to make a needed change. Change, while inevitable, is still one of the things that is hard for most people, and it takes a lot of courage to do so. We tell people up front at our clinic that we can’t “fix” anybody without their help. If they are unwilling to change bad habits, there is nothing we can do to help them turn their health around…the individual themselves is the change agent, not those who are supposed to magically fix them. And there are those who will try and convince you that “they” can fix you. It’s just not true. I am the superstar in this equation, I make the changes, I reap the benefit for doing so.

The third condition are those who refuse to take responsibility for their lives and blame others for their life challenges. People who are never responsible for anything that happens in their lives and can point a finger at everyone else but themselves, are not being courageous or truthful. Again, while there are plenty of people who are tragically victimized or face tragic circumstances, I am not talking about them. I am speaking about those who consciously refuse to proactively engage in finding a solution to any problem they face, and instead find a scapegoat to vent their rage and frustration, even if they turn it inward on themselves. While blame may give momentary solace, it never fixes anything and is the source of some of the greatest conflicts in history.

Lastly, are those people who allow structures and institutions in our world to  control them and tell them who they should be in a way that redefines them according to to the acceptable norms within the structure or institution. They tell them who they should be instead of who God created them to be. While I understand civilized people embrace certain behaviors, like the golden rule for instance, those structures whose purpose is only for power and control and superimpose a perspective at the detriment of an individual…I reject. So when someone tells me that God deplores homosexuals, or black people are inferior, or illegal aliens don’t deserve humane treatment, or their “faith” is the only true faith, I know right away they really don’t understand God at all.

All in all, I think truth and courage go hand in hand. It is difficult to share your truth when there are people who would condemn you and judge you for it. It also takes courage to speak truth to power again for the same reasons. I struggle at times worrying about the consequences of the words I speak, I’ve had my share of condemnation and judgment too. But the alternative would be to lie and that’s just not possible at this stage of the game. So, today I pray for courage and to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart.

 

Truth and Loyalty

in-thy-face-i-see-the-map-of-honour-truth-and-loyalty-quote-1

When I looked up the word loyalty in the dictionary, the word “faithfulness” was primary in each explanation. Faithfulness to an ideal, principle, etc. was expected. When it came to defining loyalty to a person. though, it added an important word: “faithfulness to a person who is due.” The word “due” is an important distinction in my mind because it infers that the person has to deserve my loyalty, that they have earned it. It is also a point of clarity for me. Over the years, and I have spoken of this before, I have had to filter out and clean my own personal loyalty house. When it comes to an ideal, or principle I think it had become clear that certain groups or institutions to which I had plead wholehearted faithfulness no longer represented the principles to which I believe they were supposed to represent. While the stripping away part may have taken effort, it was a necessary step for me in clarifying where my loyalties would lie. And I think in the present culture it has only intensified. How can you be true to a person or institution who isn’t the reflection of the ideas or ideals they claim to represent?

We all have had the experience of being loyal to someone who really didn’t deserve it. I’m not talking about our shared human frailties, I know I have acted in a way on occasion that could be considered disloyal…I’m speaking about those toxic people who continuously behave in a way that defies the reasons we were loyal in the first place and leave us diminished rather than enhanced as people. Those experiences should help us hone our ability to choose better people in the future, and also more importantly show us how to be better worthy of another’s loyalty. Those relationships that command loyalty come from an investment of time, experience and continued proof on both sides that the loyalty is justified.

So there is reason to be concerned with what we are asked to do in today’s market of social media regarding our loyalties. There are those who play on our weaknesses, fears, laziness and at times character flaws to create such a divisive and angry divide. I see cable news do it, political parties do it, religions do it, and the list goes on and on. They demand loyalty without being held to account for whether or not they hold up the ideals they are supposed to stand for, claim the exclusive power to define who is right and who is wrong, are just using people for their own personal gain, or even more nefarious reasons, all to create an us vs them environment where no one can think differently without being vilified. The thing that befuddles and concerns me most deeply is to see good intelligent people fall prey to this kind of nonsense just because it suits their color or symbol of the moment. The leverage we give these groups instead of truth or principles they are supposed to stand for, is one of the greatest evils of our time.

And yet, how do you address it? It has become so difficult to have a civilized discussion at all about people who strike such polarity in our world. It never used to be a big deal to have friends that held different beliefs than I did…not so anymore. So rather than conquer the great white elephant in the room, let me ask you this: To whom or what are you pledging your loyalty? Do they represent your values, and would you stake your soul on it? These questions shouldn’t be answered easily, because there is just too much smoke and mirrors out there that the truth must be fought for. Expecting loyalty should take time, patience and experience. If the behavior doesn’t measure up, or isn’t truthful, then cut them free and look elsewhere. My loyalties may be few, but I believe they are worthy of my fidelity…until they are not.

 

Little White Lies

lies-clipart-3

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve embarked on my adventure of truth is how often I’ve told the stupidest lies, ones that mean absolutely nothing except to embellish a story, mask a feeling, cover up or avoid something embarrassing.  I’m sure everyone does it. It appears harmless enough…but compounded day after day? I think a whole other story emerges, an illusory one that begins to obscure simple human truths, like we are all imperfect, sometimes our daily story is boring and most importantly we avoid feeling necessary feelings, even ones that portray us in a much poorer light than we would like others to see. It is also how the layer after layer of subterfuge begins to cover our true selves. Perhaps the simple lies we tell are the ones that, building over time, are the most dangerous because we not only limit our own development, but in turn affect the truth of who we are to other people. While I have no problem with putting our best selves forward, its never good to buy into the lie that we are something that we’re not. The truth always comes out eventually.

In my job, I listen to excuses all day long…why they can’t make a must needed change, afford care, eat healthy food and exercise, be faithful, stop smoking, and well, the list goes on and on. I always try to reserve judgement because I know how frightening life changes can be and figure when they are ready the excuses will stop and the real work of health can begin. And when that happens the transformations are truly amazing. Sadly, there are times too when the excuses are just too big and the blame begins, and the “you just don’t know” conversation begins and they fall victim to a sense of powerlessness. I can never know what each person is going through and I always try to be unconditional, offer empathy and compassion but hopelessness? It’s never been an option for me. The backhand of karma has smacked me upside the head too many times to even entertain the thought of engaging as a victim in any situation let alone allow someone else to do so. Making excuses and being powerless is antithetical to my faith, plain and simple. And truly, that’s where the real work is, isn’t it…first believing that we are all created in the image of God, just as we are, without embellishment. It is where we should begin each day on our journey and put our faith in remaining true to that simple principle. Then, there would be no need for those silly lies we tell.

Tomorrow, let only truth come from your mouth, and be aware of when it does not. You may be surprised at what you learn.

 

 

Higher Ground

mount everest

Deception is heavy. Lies breed more lies. Illusions feed on fear. All together, deception, lies and illusion are the weights that keep us down, immobilize and prevent us from standing on the highest ground, having sight to see what’s up ahead and how to move forward. I know and understand this, yet why does it seem so daunting at times?. When Jesus said my yoke is easy and burden light, I believe he was speaking of being free from the burdens that lies bring and the deception of covering our sins, that living in truth brings true freedom. When you live and walk in truth, there is nothing to hide. But that’s the rub, isn’t it, being in a place where you have nothing to hide. Standing naked while the rest of the world seems to be clothed in any number of costumes to cloak who they really are underneath is the purest form of vulnerability. And yet, if I am to be a follower of Jesus, whose very purpose is to testify to the truth, then naked I must be. The rest is pure logic…if you do not walk in truth, and testify to truth, you really aren’t a disciple of Christ, or any other faith who holds truth as a central tenet of its dogma. Getting rid of all the subterfuge is the first step, and the second is the exposure of ones flaws.

When I worked in ministry, I had the honor of being a 5th step counselor for an adolescent treatment center. The fifth step in AA is: “Admitting to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” It was a step often feared, but once accomplished always left the participant (that I saw anyway) with such relief, lightness and often joy. It’s hard to walk around the world with the heavy burden of guilt and past acts of hurtfulness, but once released, it was as if they were standing on higher ground. It is an instrumental step for people in recovery, and I have learned so much from those who are in the program.

So in the early steps of my year of truth, I feel strength in standing on higher ground, not in a way that is better by any means, just lighter. I’ve learned to appreciate that being born without filters has proven to be quite a gift. I am who I am, flaws and all unburdened by lies or deception. The scarier step is to continue to walk in the world and be seen and judged by those flaws. I always believe that when people see me what they see is what they get, and while that is mostly true, I also know the nature of my sensitive heart and the length to which I have gone to close it off to the angry sentiment, deceptions, betrayal and judgments of the world. In doing so I also closed myself off to the support, love, acceptance and joy that comes when my heart is open. Trust and truth go hand in hand, of than I am sure.

Today I walk unhindered and exposed, naked and at times afraid, and yet in full sight of the goodness and hope that higher ground offers. My prayer is that you too will join me on this journey.

And the Truth will set you Free

LiesThe truth will set you free…what is that supposed to mean?  Sure, talk to anyone who has lived a lie, held onto a lie or perpetuates one against someone else, it does take it’s toll, and eventually the truth comes out.  And it’s never just one lie; lies multiply until they coalesce into substantial matter that obliterates the many to sustain itself.  Lies make people seem larger than life, and create the illusion that can make the truth seem somehow less than, well, true. I was watching a documentary on HBO: “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” and I realized just how powerful lies can be.

What I found most surprising is that the people being interviewed seemed reasonable, intelligent, and well, normal.  Having never been a in a cult (crazy town doesn’t count), I just couldn’t understand how they could be, well, so stupid.  Clearly L Ron Hubbard was mentally ill, even he thought so…and David Miscavige is an almost textbook narcissistic sociopath.  Why do the intelligent follow him?  When the documentary insinuated that the “church” may hold too much dirt on many of their more wealthy members, I thought that this was a perfect example of how intrusive lies can be and how they really can imprison a person.  I give credit to and pray for those who finally came forward to tell the truth. From what it sounds like, the Church of Scientology didn’t make it easy for them.  They were harassed, their reputations tarnished, they were cut off from their families, all because they wouldn’t sustain the lies and would no longer be controlled.

I think that is why Jesus honed in on the truth so much.  In the gospel of John, Jesus makes the above quote.  He does it in the context of refusing to condemn a woman caught in adultary.  When he declared that the one who hasn’t sinned throw the first stone, everyone walked away…so he didn’t condemn her either, and went on to say, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees attacked his veracity and demanded verification. Rather than listen and soak in the wisdom of what just happened, they yell “Prove it”  And he did, but there was a steep price to pay.  He had all the power, which is why he didn’t have to use it, but to those who exist in lies, it’s terrifying. He gave his life to empower mine. Now I have his power, if I remain in his word, as he instructed.  The truth isn’t always easy or glamorous, but it certainly is freeing.