Telling The Truth

Alienation and separation from others is supported by the cultural belief that we should present ourselves well, and not tell each other when that isn’t going well.


When I sat in Starbucks writing this I overheard an older couple talking with a man around forty. The man appeared to be of low intelligence, or suffering some kind of brain damage. The couple’s tone indicated that they weren’t interested in listening to him, but pretended to be. If everyone were open about what was going on, the man could have said that he had to think more slowly than most people because of .… And the couple could have said that the information he was trying to offer wasn’t helpful.

All three could have been in the present, living in reality, revealing themselves. Even with the differences in their intelligence levels, and interests, they would have had an intimate exchange. They could have learned how to have a conversation that could have been satisfying to all three. But as long as the couple had to ignore their reactions, and pretend to listen, they were relegated to the alienation and isolation our culture sets up.


Remember the song, “All We Need is Love?” And the mentality that went with it? I wondered what they meant by love. When I observe people who act loving, who want to appear caring even when the other person isn’t receiving it, I shake my head. Without naming the whole truth of what is going on, “love” cannot be helpful.


Transparency with boundaries is the solution to the culture’s separation of us from each other. But this is more easily said than done. The obstacle is the amount of shame carried by everyone around us. We need gatherings of people who are willing to feel shame, name it, and keep talking anyway. If a friend tells me I have interrupted her, I may feel a little shame because I don’t want to make people feel badly. So I can say, “I’m sorry, my mind is off running with what you are talking about. Thank you for letting me know that you need me to listen.” She will nod, smile, and continue what she was saying. And now of course, I will be really listening!

It may be more difficult for the couple to tell someone that his instruction isn’t of value, and lets talk about something else. They don’t have an agreement that this is within the scope of their relationship. And it isn’t in the scope of the culture. It is in Gatherings!

I attended a Non Violent Communication gathering where each person talked about something of importance. When others offered input, each person controlled the speed with which they received input. One man held his hand up, and said, “Not yet.” He did this three times. Because this is within the rules of Non Violent Communication, the man who wanted to make input didn’t feel shame! They had an agreement that each person had control over their process. When these men are together as friends they get to live this agreement.

When I had information for a new friend, a young man who is committed to learning and growing, I asked him first if he was interested in hearing my observations. I didn’t just blurt them out because we didn’t have this agreement. I took into account the fact that he is still immersed in the culture. But he said yes, he wants to learn all he can. I told him, and he was grateful. But he would have been startled at least if I had just blurted it out. From now on, I can! We are changing the rules.

In the GATHERINGS, we are changing the rules! 

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