Later I confronted him. “How could you say that to her? Obviously, that’s a painful part of her life!” Unemotionally, he replied that whenever we don’t tell the truth, we remain stuck in that event or thought or feeling. I agreed that might be so, but that there had to be better, gentler ways to get unstuck!
That was back in the 1980’s and those “trainings” were encounter groups that could be brutal.
At that time I was training youth and adults and consulting on projects aimed at reducing harmful risk taking behavior by developing skills, building a positive self-image and creating supportive environments. At one of those trainings, a participant shared a different view of truth telling. He told the group that his personal criterion for truth telling was to ask himself three questions before speaking:
“Is it helpful? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”
Here we are in 2016. Not a lot has changed over the years except, perhaps, that the words intruding upon us have multiplied many-fold. Main stream media is largely inflammatory, rarely reports the gentle and the good. People use words to manipulate us to their way of thinking and being, to buy products, to hate certain “others,” to act in ways that further a particular agenda. Social media has given us means for brutal expressions as well as kinder, gentler ones. We all have a bigger audience to whom we may convey our opinions, vent our frustrations, and appeal to for support of our causes. How we choose to go about our expressing is vital. Are we really speaking our own truth? What impact do our comments have on others? What kind of world do we wish to see emerge as a direct result of our words? Our words do have that much power!
A few years ago, I became aware that I was often feeling uncomfortable around a friend. I was guarded and defensive when I spoke, I rehashed our conversations and spent way too much time trying to figure out what was going on. I came to realize that my discomfort stemmed from the ways she was being controlling and manipulative and trying to direct my thoughts and behaviors. This poem was my acknowledgement of that experience. Today I am grateful that she helped me to be attentive to my own intuitions and to consider the impact of my words on others.
she spoke words of her own interpretation
coloring my perception
for two days now
one by one
I’m peeling off each word –
as there were many
each weighted with intention –
I set them free
into the wind
to form themselves
into shrinking clouds
into the void
they are not my words
- from“untying the web”
© 2016 p a boernke