The Policy of Truth
Shannon and Lorna, Thanksgiving 2006 in Destin– where will we be this year for Thanksgiving?!
“You had something to hide;
Should have hidden it, shouldn’t you?
Now you’re not satisfied
With what you’re being put through.” — Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth”
Many years ago, I had a friend who had based most of his relationships on lies. I later learned that one doctor had diagnosed him with narcissistic personality disorder and another with borderline personality disorder. That, of course, meant any problems in our relationship were my fault, which as an undiagnosed codependent, I gladly accepted. He was breath-taking when it came to spinning a story to his own needs, and just as an artist paints in oils or watercolors, his masterpieces were painted in lies.
A time came when he lost everything–including his family–and decided that it was time turn over a new leaf. The result? He decided to live his life by a “policy of truth.” He told me this as we were listening to a Depeche Mode song at some underground club where the walls were painted black and the address was found hidden in the local newspaper’s want-ads. The truth behind his “policy of truth” was that he had nothing left to lose, or so he thought, so he focused on speaking only the truth…the brutal truth.
The problem with this was that he had no filters. Telling the truth meant commenting on anything negative or destructive just as quickly as commenting on the time of day. Gain a pound? He’d let you know. Bad hair day? He’d greet you with a reminder of it. Somehow in his mind, a policy of truthfulness–regardless of the hurt or negativity–made up for lying to his wife for 10 years when he was too late to make it up to her and his kids.
I’ve adopted my own version of a policy of truth over the past few years, but I’ve tempered it with compassion. There’s generally not a burning need to stick my nose in someone else’s business to tell them something devastating when they need to work it out for themselves. If I were to tell them, they’d only be defensive and focus their hurt or anger on me instead of where it needs to be to regain their self-esteem. If I must be the bearer of bad news, I find a way to be gentle, but then, why is it my place to be the bearer of bad news?
What I prefer to the “policy of truth” is a policy of authenticity. Still tempered with compassion when necessary, mind you. Maybe it’s a product of getting older, losing patience with anything too complicated, and desiring to simplify life, but I find that life is just so much easier if you be true to yourself and others. There aren’t multitudes of lies and half-truths to remember, and you don’t get caught in your own web of deception, unless maybe it’s self-deception. I have a hard time lying to people, so I don’t. I’ve seen people justify little white lies as meaningless but the big ones become so much easier when the little ones don’t matter. Sometimes I get stung by the truth and sometimes I have to sting someone else, but it’s rarely intentional and I soften it where I can.
This authenticity is what I call living life in the open. It’s part of why I journal–and frequently why people write to me and tell me I’ve said something for them that they could never say themselves. It is being who I am, like it or not, and letting others see who I am, no lies, no hiding, no faking. I refuse to be in a relationship with anyone I feel I have to fake it for…because I don’t fake anything for anyone.
And that’s often not the answer someone wants to hear.