Seeing the best in life's challenges

The Truth Hurts

The truth hurts, so they say. I recently ran across this quote:


Truth is like a surgery. It hurts but it heals.

A Lie is like a painkiller. It gives instant relief

but has side effects forever.


After googling, this quote seems to have an unknown origin, however, it may be based on a quote by Han Suyin:  “Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.”

We can talk of Truth in terms of Facts, but even Facts can be questioned. What is the Truth? This is a question that is not as easy to answer as it seems it should be.

It seems to me that the kinds of Truth that are relevant to the quote, are Truths about perceptions, feelings, and consistencies.  They are personal Truths.

When, or in what instances, does Truth “hurt”? When do we not want to hear the Truth? When do we hesitate to tell the Truth?

I am specifically interested in the dynamic of how truthful we are when we are interacting with other individuals. There are two sides to this – how we express information and how we take in information. There is telling – either the truth, a partial truth, a white lie, or a flat-out Lie – and there is listening and reacting to what is said to us.

As far as being the Truth-Teller, it seems to me that the act of telling the Truth doesn’t hurt the one doing the telling. It “hurts” the person who doesn’t want to hear the Truth. So why wouldn’t each of us always tell the Truth, if that doesn’t hurt? Why would we hesitate?

When we know that telling the Truth will hurt another person, we hesitate, because we don’t want to cause pain. We don’t want to put that person through surgery! If it’s not an important issue, we might tell a White Lie to avoid hurting that person, and that’s no big deal. That’s not a matter of surgery, right? The quote is talking about important Truth.

Maybe we previously told the Truth, and the pain that it caused resulted in the other person getting angry, lashing out, getting defensive, or otherwise reacting in a way that we don’t want to experience again. We don’t want to deal with the consequences, so we withhold the Truth in the future. Have you fallen into this pattern? Are you a habitual “nice guy” who tells people what they want to hear, who doesn’t want to disappoint anyone? We may each have a different level of tolerance for negative feedback or dealing with conflict which influences how often we tell the truth.

How Truthful we are with another individual may depend on what kind of relationship we have with that person. The quote as I take it, is talking about people we know and are close to. For one thing, if we tell a stranger a tough truth, we have no idea what kind of reaction we are going to get. AND we also probably don’t really have enough information in a lot of cases to really have the right facts to be sure we really know the whole truth.

Then there’s the kind of “truth-telling” which is not about another person personally, it’s stating an idea about “the way things are” and is more global. This also doesn’t seem like surgery to me, and doesn’t lead to healing. This is a different subject than what I am talking about right now.

We all probably know people who “tell it like it is” or are blunt, and this is a kind of truthful. But these people don’t always know enough to be saying what they say.  I am not sure that the truth that comes from them is always a surgery that leads to healing.

In situations where you are dealing with a person you are close to, and you are dealing with an important issue, are you aware of how truthful you are? Are you aware of when you tell the Truth and when you withhold the Truth? Do you know why you are hesitating?

If you are not telling the Truth, how do you do it? Do you say words you know aren’t true, just to avoid the pain? Do you remain silent, to avoid having to say anything? Do you nod in agreement, even though you don’t agree? Do you say yes, when you mean no? Do you say no, when you mean yes?  If someone asks you to be honest with them, do you have a hard time telling them the Truth?

Can you recognize the “side effects” of not telling the Truth?

Let’s switch to the other side of the equation of Truthfulness – that is, how do you receive information that is given to you? Do you actually want to hear the Truth, even if it hurts?

It’s a good question to think about: Is surgery worth it? Do you want to heal, even if that means you have to go through pain? Or would you rather avoid or dull the pain, and not deal with whatever your issue is? Do you see the downside of avoidance?

If your overriding desire is to avoid the pain, then I think you are not alone. We tend to want to avoid our own issues, inconsistencies, fears, weaknesses, shortcomings…. whatever things we have going on that someone else might want to point out to us.

HOW we communicate these kinds of Truths can make a huge difference in being able to face them. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure that hearing a difficult Truth has to be so terribly painful. We have been told that the Truth hurts, but if someone we know is telling us something in Truth, and we know that they love us and want what is best for us, we might still feel sad or disappointed in ourselves – but not automatically devastated, right? If we recognize that every human being has their own “stuff” they are working on, we don’t have to feel like a “bad person” just because we aren’t “perfect.”

So what I get from thinking about the quote is, it is in my best interest to hear the Truth, even if I don’t like it. It is in my best interest to cultivate relationships with others who know me, love me, want what is best for me – and are also willing to be Truthful with me.

I think it’s also important to remember that the Truth is usually more complicated than we like to express. Developing an honest relationship with another person, also involves becoming good at communicating, back and forth, to explore whatever the issue is, and to refine our descriptions and the aspects of Truth.

When you tell someone a Truth as you see it, are you sure that you are right? Presenting this Truth as your perception, given the facts that you have, is a good way to keep the discussion open, as there might be something you don’t know that would change your conclusions. Are you open to additional information? Are you able to see the situation from the other person’s viewpoint?

When your friend tells you a Truth that doesn’t seem quite right, can you ask questions and understand what they are saying, before you react? Can you purposely put off your reaction, and give yourself time to ponder the issue at hand?

Can you offer more information, an explanation, without getting defensive? Do you immediately tell the other person what they did wrong, deflecting the subject so you don’t have to self-reflect? Do you know anyone you are close to, who has stopped having deep conversations with you?

I have a couple people in my life, who I have concluded that I just can’t be honest with. I care about them, I want them to be happy, and I respect that they are living their lives in the ways they choose, and all that is just fine. Yet I see inconsistencies that have negative consequences, and are subjects that they get very agitated and defensive about. They seem to have formed opinions about me, my actions, my motivations, etc. that I know are not Truth, but they don’t want to hear any different. They seem to want to be “right” and I am “wrong.” I feel misunderstood.  I would love to be able to understand each other, and it may very well be that our two ways of being are incompatible going forward – and to me, that might just be how it is and that is ok. I am at peace with that. Ironically, they are not at peace with it. IF we could have an honest, non-judgmental discussion about it, we might be able to heal. But sometimes we have to be able to be Truthful to find healing.

Do you recognize situations of your own where this is going on?

My approach is to be aware of when someone you trust, who you know loves you and has your best interests at heart, tells you a “Truth” that you don’t like hearing. Can you listen to what they are saying? Can you acknowledge that it hurts to hear it, yet not react as if this person is attacking you? Do you launch a counter attack? Or do you listen and ask questions to clarify and learn more?

The point is not that you have to agree with the other person, if you think they don’t see your Truth. The point is to remain open, to be able to consider what they say without getting worked up about it. THEN you can continue the discussion, and either correct misconceptions or misunderstanding, OR perhaps agree to disagree.

Ultimately, whether the Truth acts as a surgery, depends on the person receiving that Truth. If we hear something disturbing from someone we know cares about us and has no ill intentions, we might benefit greatly by taking it into consideration and doing the hard work of addressing whatever it is. We have to engage the process for healing to occur.

Only I can initiate healing for myself. Others can provide support and feedback, but they cannot heal me.

We can each cultivate relationships in our lives that are Truthful. Have you ever asked a person you trust, to give you their honest take on something you are having a hard time with? Are you able to openly listen to their feedback?

Do you have a friend who knows all about your struggles? Do they listen? Do they feel comfortable giving you feedback? Do you do the same for them?

Having this kind of relationship with someone takes practice. If you cannot take criticism or negative feedback without reacting or getting defensive, it will be impossible to have a truly intimate, close relationship with the other person. Your relationship will remain superficial and limited.

If I want to have honest relationships with others, then I have to make sure that I am open to listening, even when I might not agree with or like what the other person is saying. I also have to be willing to be truthful, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable.

In my experience, I am finding more and more people who are working on having these kinds of relationships with others. It doesn’t necessarily feel “natural.” It can feel very vulnerable. Your attempts can fall flat on their collective faces. It’s a very different way of being, and not everybody is ready for it. We will still have misunderstandings, but we can practice working through them.

If you get nothing else out of this, I hope you pay more attention to when we all are Truthful with each other and when we are not. Then make your own choices — consciously. And if you have healing to do? Seek out people who care, who will be real with you, even if that’s uncomfortable to do.



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Feel, Think, Say, Do

What we feel, what we think, what we say, and what we do are basic aspects of how we live life! Are we consistent with these four aspects or not?

It seems that, of course a person would be consistent, but think about it – if you observe yourself or other people, you can see plenty of instances where we are not consistent.

I would venture to say, that we are happiest when we are consistent, and not very happy or comfortable when we are not.

So why wouldn’t we always be consistent?

Let’s first talk about our feelings. We feel what we feel, but we have been taught that we “should” feel certain ways in certain instances. We have been told that our feelings are “wrong.” But this is not the way we are built. What we feel just is and so if our feelings are deemed acceptable, that’s great, but if we have feelings that are wrong or unacceptable, we feel shame and guilt, we conclude we must be a bad person or must have something wrong with us. So instead of feeling our feelings freely, we develop filters and get ourselves all mixed up about our emotions.

You don’t really have a choice about what you feel. Feelings and emotion just happen. You can pretend you didn’t feel something, but suppressing your feelings causes all kinds of problems. So what IF that feeling you have is inappropriate?

Well, that’s something to think about. This is what your brain is for. You know how you feel, you know your own situation, you can think through the implications of what you decide to say or do.

We always have a better outcome when we think things through. Thinking is where we pass judgment and apply all those rules where society tells us how we should be. Our brain also allows us to notice things, like how we feel, and it processes and ponders all the implications of how we feel, whether how we feel is acceptable, if and what we should say about it, and if and what we should do about it.

Because you DO have a choice about what you say and what you do. And THIS is where we can apply the ideas of what is appropriate and what is not.

Personally, I think we would all get along so much better, and we would all understand each other better, if we were able to apply this perspective. Because owning our feelings, and being able to be HONEST about our feelings, will help us to understand each other. If we insist on making the feelings of others “wrong” we will continue the judgment and resulting arguments, and never get anywhere.

So, pay attention to situations, and notice when we are not allowing someone to express their feelings, even if we think they are inappropriate. Instead, focus on what that person is saying or, more importantly, DOING and whether what they DO is appropriate or not.

How do we decide if someone’s actions are appropriate or not?

This is not always simple. But it has to do with whether they are imposing their will on another in a way that causes harm. This is not simple, because we don’t all feel or want the same things, so there are opposing forces at work.

But there are some straightforward examples.

And here’s a simple, but really difficult example that illustrates this exactly. Challenge yourself to take in this example without judgment, notice how you are judging feelings, then notice the thinking/processing, and notice the ABSENCE of inappropriate or harmful behavior.

Remember, I said this is a DIFFICULT one:

Watch this video at this link

Notice how Todd says, “no matter what we say or do, people are going to hate us anyway.”

Todd says he has never abused a child and never will. He totally owns his feelings, and he took a lot of time to think this through and process what those feelings mean, to him, to others, and to society. And he CHOOSES to communicate in an honest way, and CHOOSES to act in a way that will do no harm.

Yet we have a very difficult time knowing what to do with someone like Todd, because we consider his feelings to be bad. He knows that.  Is he a BAD person?

What you can say about Todd is that he is HONEST.  Think about this:  would you rather he hid his feelings, so you didn’t have to think about them?  Would you then think he was a “good” person since he has done nothing wrong?

Geez, if Todd can do this in his situation, can’t we all learn to embrace our feelings and work through them? Can’t we learn to allow others to do the same?

What if Todd’s situation is a lesson that each of us could embrace, which would help us all to be more real, more honest, and more caring about others?

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What I Really, Really Want

I read a great article today that prompted me to put this post together.  It’s a combination of several things I’ve been thinking about anyway.  The subject is: what do we really want out of a relationship, anyway?  What do men really want?  What do women really want?

To get what I’m talking about, you probably want to read the article by Ken Solin first.

Here’s how I frame this issue.  As I’ve written about before, both women and men have yin and yang characteristics.  I like how Lee Carroll refers to these two traits as “mother energy” and “father energy.”  Mother energy is nurturing, compassionate, gentle, forgiving.  Father energy is disciplined, secure, strong, physical.  Each of us, regardless of gender, has our own combination, or balance, of yin and yang, of mother energy and father energy.  So really, it’s a little hard to characterize what all women, or all men, want.

In his book Happiness is a Serious Problem, Dennis Prager talks about women and men both having insatiable desires.  He says women have an insatiable need for emotional intimacy, and men have an insatiable need for physical intimacy.  Prager makes a really good point, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that.  For purposes of this discussion, I‘m going to suggest that yin, or mother energy, craves emotional intimacy, and yang, or father energy, craves physical intimacy.

We all know that women also want physical intimacy, and men also want to feel close emotionally.  But a man who is very yang will be more focused on the physical, just like a woman who is mostly yin will focus on feelings.  In the past, when both women and men were less balanced, more polarized, the old generalizations were more accurate.

(Now, let me get a little Bible reference in here.  I find this really interesting.  I’m talking about Ephesians 5, where Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands.  In the notes in my NIV Bible, it says that submit means “to yield one’s own rights.”  The scripture talks about the body – something that is physical.  Then, the husband is told to love his wife – all about feelings.  Is it just me, or did Paul just allude to this same relationship dance of physical and emotional intimacy, in a way that was appropriate for the times??  Back when men were men, and women were women?)

IF, as I have written about before, we are all coming into greater balance within ourselves in terms of yin and yang, feminine and masculine traits, then it is no longer that simple.  Today, it makes sense that men and women will be looking for both physical and emotional intimacy. So in order to understand what a specific individual wants, one must understand that person’s unique balance of traits.  You have to get to know and understand the other person.

Ken Solin refers to the “empowered” women of today.  As women have become more “equal” what they have really become is more balanced.  Their inner yang/masculine energy has become more prominent, so no wonder we have seen women more inclined toward physical pursuits in terms of relating to men.  By the same token, we have seen men become more balanced as well, more interested in emotional intimacy, and Solin specifically talks about how this can be confusing.  I dare say that physical interaction involves skills that are easier to pick up, compared to the slippery slope of learning how to deal with sharing feelings.  No wonder this is really tough on many guys.

Solin very wisely talks about the difference between just being emotional, and being emotionally honest.  We’re really talking about communicating what you are feeling, which means being honest with yourself and understanding your own feelings first.  In order to have true emotional intimacy, each side must strive to be emotionally honest, AND each side must commit to listen without judgment or defensiveness.  Open communication must occur.

This is no different than physical intimacy, but does anybody ever talk about this?  We give each other feedback about what we like and don’t like, this feels good, that feels better, can you try this, etc.  A good physical relationship involves give and take, responding to feedback, and trying new things.  A physical relationship isn’t so good when one side goes along with something that doesn’t work for them.  A selfish physical partner probably won’t experience physical intimacy with the same partner for very long.

So all the same goes for working on emotional intimacy.  Solin gives very good advice.  I like what he says:

“No one wins when the truth gets beaten up.”




(Maybe the guy’s lock should be his heart, and the woman should have the key on a chain around her neck??  Still this picture made me smile!)