Editor's Note: Telling the
truth is one of the biggest issues that parents face with their
kids. We also face issues of truth, honesty, and honest
opinion every day in our lives.
Every once in awhile, we run into
issues of truthfulness that manage to cause problems and we have to
pause and ask, when is telling the truth important and helpful, is
it the truth or our opinion, or will telling the truth be more
harmful than telling the lie?
Telling the Truth…or Not
Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Having counseled individuals,
couples, families and business partners for the past 35 years, I
have often encountered people struggling in their relationships
about whether or not to tell their truth to someone important to
Deciding whether or not we choose
to speak our truth needs to come from our own honesty with ourselves
about why we are speaking the truth. Truth can enhance or destroy a
relationship, depending upon the intent.
There are times when telling your
"truth" is unloving. For example, you might not be wild
about what your friend is wearing, but if your friend is giving an
important presentation and asks you how she (or he) looks, it would
not be in anyone's highest good to give your opinion.
Opinions are generally judgments
and rarely contribute to the good of a relationship. It is therefore
very important to distinguish between opinions and truth. Too often,
just because we think something is true, we assume that it is true.
However, truth is a fact, not a opinion. If I am hungry, that is a
fact, but how you look is my opinion.
There are times when someone might
be having a hard time, and it is not fun to be around them. For
example, your friend has lost a beloved person to death, and your
friend is in mourning. It is not fun for you to be around the grief
and stress, yet telling your friend that it doesn't feel good to be
around him or her would not be loving or supportive of your
It is very important, when telling
our truth, to distinguish between being loving to ourselves and
others - having our own highest good and the other's highest good at
heart - and making another responsible for our feelings. Telling
another that, "I'm upset because you're tense and it doesn't
feel good to be around you," may indicate a lack of empathy and
making the other responsible for your feelings.
Therefore, the important thing in
telling the truth is to be honest with yourself about your own
intent in telling your truth. Are you truly being loving to yourself
and others, or are you using your truth to control another and make
him or her responsible for you? Are you speaking your truth to
enhance the relationship, or to get the other to change?
However, there are many times when
speaking your truth is in your highest good and the highest good of
others. Yet many of us have much difficulty speaking our truth to
others, especially to important others such as parents, siblings,
close friends, co-workers and mates. We are afraid the other person
will be angry or hurt by our truth, even when we state it without
judgment or blame.
So we say yes when we mean no, say
things are okay when they aren't, avoid difficult topics of
conversation, pretend to enjoy something - food, sex, a movie, the
topic of conversation, the way we are spending time - to avoid
upsetting another. We may continue to tolerate things that are
intolerable to us to avoid a conflict.
Withholding our truth can be a form
of control, just as telling our truth can be a form of control. We
may want to control how another feels about us and treats us. We
want to make sure we don't get attacked or rejected.
Often I hear my
clients say, when I encourage them to tell the truth, "I can't
say that. He (or she) will get mad." Yes, he or she might get
hurt or mad. Yet courage may mean the willingness to speak your
truth anyway and learn to deal with the other person's
This is part of developing an inner
loving Adult self - learning to not take the other person's behavior
personally, learning to stay solid in our truth and allow the other
person to go through whatever he or she experiences in response to
our truths without taking responsibility for the other's feelings.
Avoiding the other's hurt and anger
is only one part of the challenge. The other part is that we may be
unwilling to know the truth regarding whether or not that other
person cares about what is important to us. If, for example, you
tell your mate that you are unhappy with a particular aspect of your
sex life, and your mate gets hurt or angry instead of wanting to
understand, you might feel even worse.
It feels awful to speak our truth
and receive an uncaring response. The deeper feeling is one of
gut-wrenching loneliness. It is deeply lonely to share something
that is important to us and receive an uncaring response from some
one important to us.
So, not only are we often afraid of
dealing with another's anger, but we may be even more afraid of the
lonely feeling of being uncared for. Until we are willing to know
the truth of whether or not the other person really does care about
what is important to us, we may avoid speaking our truth.
However, when we withhold our truth
to avoid conflict and avoid feeling uncared for by another, the
consequence is that we feel alone and maybe depressed because we are
not caring about ourselves. When we don't stand up for ourselves, we
end up feeling unimportant, regardless of how others treat us. We
cannot ignore ourselves and feel good inside.
The question we need to ask
ourselves is, "Are we willing to give ourselves up to avoid
losing others, or are we willing to lose others rather than lose
ourselves?" I have found that losing myself is never worth it.
If I lose others as a result of speaking my truth, then I have to
accept the truth that those people never had my highest good at
People who care about my highest
good applaud me when I speak the truth that supports my highest
good. People who care about me support me in living my truth. Those
who just want to use me in some way will get angry or hurt at my
truth, and that lets me know the truth about their intent.
Therefore, we have to be willing to
know another's truth regarding whether or not that person really
cares about us in order to tell our heartfelt truth.
Let's say that you say to your
partner, "It is not tolerable for me to be around you when you
are drinking. I feel shut out and disconnected from you when you
drink. It is just too lonely to be with you when you are
drinking." If alcohol is more important to your partner than
you are, then the response is likely to be, "That's your
problem, not mine. Stop blaming me for your feelings. Stop trying to
If you are more important to your
partner than alcohol, then your partner will address the issue and
get some help with the problem. The question is, do you want to know
the reality of the situation? Are you prepared to take loving action
for yourself if you discover that your partner really doesn't care
about the effect his or her behavior is having on you?
You will have the courage to speak
your truth when you have the courage to know the truth about any
given relationship. What if you say to your best friend, "I
often feel judged by you and it doesn't feel good," and your
best friend gets defensive and tells you it's all your problem. What
are you going to do if your best friend consistently responds in an
Are you willing to lose someone
whom you have believed was your best friend, or are you going to
avoid telling the truth to avoid knowing the truth? Are you willing
to feel the loneliness if you find out that someone you thought
cared really doesn't, or do you want to go on pretending that real
caring exists with that person?
It take great courage to tell the
truth and discover the truth. We often kid ourselves into thinking
that avoiding others anger and hurt is a loving thing to do. We
justify our behavior by telling ourselves that it's just that we
don't want to hurt or upset others, or that we just don't want to
deal with another's hurt or anger.
Yet avoidance may not be loving to
ourselves or others. Are you willing to sacrifice your own
integrity to avoid the pain of conflict and loneliness? To me,
nothing is worth a loss of integrity, not even the loss of another.
you really tune into how you feel when you withhold your truth to
protect yourself from conflict and loneliness, you will discover
that honoring yourself by telling your truth, without blame or
judgment, is deeply empowering. You will feel on top of the world
when you finally have the courage to speak your heartfelt truth when
your intent is to support your own and others' highest good.
About The Author
Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books,
including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?"
and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the
powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now!
Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com