Listening for Truth and Speaking the Truth: Why is it so hard?
By Charlene Ogu
We all have egos. We all have moments when we just want to be right. We want to win the argument. We feel like we know something that the other doesn't, and that it's our duty to explain to them how they are wrong and if they would just come over to our side they too could enjoy the fruits of being right.
The thing is, when you're on a mission to be right you miss the opportunity to learn something new. And let's be honest you do a disservice to the eternal, everlasting power which is TRUTH!
So why do we do that? Why are we so eager to come out winning and why is it so hard to really wholeheartedly listen and consider what someone else is saying. Then again, why is it so hard to sometimes say the truth?
How do we enter into dialogue and have honest conversations about our world, now more than ever?
Sometimes we miss the silent words that hover around a statement and the sentiments that remain hidden. We forget that our individual relationship with language is going to be different and that not everyone is aware of their true feelings about a situation.
I'll give you an example. Race.
Racism, Institutional racism, Racist, Whiteness, White, White supremacy - are words loaded with emotions and attitudes that may vary amongst people.
If when Jane and Jill are having a conversation, Jill says 'that was a racist thing to say Jane'. Jane's response might be to immediately defend herself and explain why what she said wasn't racist before considering Jill's point. Jane may or may not even realise that she associates saying something racist with being a horribly bad person (ideas likely reinforced by society linking our behaviour to our identity). The objectivity of what Jill says (racism definition - prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.) is lost and so a round about conversation of how it was or wasn't racist ensues and the opportunity for Jane to learn something she didn't know before is lost.
That being said Jill also has to be open to the possibility of being wrong.
We love certainty, not many of us enjoy the process of change. Certainty gives us comfort. The truth will indeed set you free but first it will make you uncomfortable.
Privilege is a certainty, that keeps us favoured and safe. We have the privilege of not considering someone else's life when they feel ostracised and unsafe because we don't have to. Perhaps you've never needed to do the introspective work of a homosexual person living in our society that can at times be homophobic, maybe it's never been necessary for you.
If I consider someone else's uncertainty the framework of my certainty may collapse. For example maybe you read an article about the lives of people living in poverty and being exploited in child labour making clothes you enjoy buying at 'insert favourite clothing shop here' Perhaps a friend brings it up in conversation, you may decide to pay no attention to it because you know if you listen you might actually have to consider if it's still ethical to shop at that store.
Recognising someone else's experience of uncertainty, and not being threatened by it, or at least trying to ask yourself questions of why you may be threatened by it, gives room for dialogue.
Why is it sometimes hard to say the truth. Sometimes we want to spear the feelings of someone. We don't tell the truth because we live in a capitalist society that profits and builds itself on emotions and feelings. We identify with our feelings 'I am sad' or 'I am happy' instead of 'I am feeling sad' or 'I am feeling happy'. Feelings have become the fabric on which we build our identity 'I feel like... ' They are easy to manipulate, and so they are. Culture, media, social media ect. use the currency of emotions to sell things everyday without understanding the effects it will have generations later. The beauty industry sells you clothes that will make you feel beautiful and relevant like the women in their adverts, years later young girls are increasingly struggling with body dysmorphia, eating disorders and low self esteem. Pornography sells men and women the feelings of sexual pleasure and the byproduct is the objectification of women, lack of intimacy,... I could go on, but that's for another article on another day. The point is that we're a culture that places tremendous value on how we feel.
So if I tell you the truth that is aside from what you feel to be true, there is the potential of shattering your identity.
Don't get me wrong, our emotions are a gift from God and part of our humanness, they move us, compel us and convict us. Feelings are good, but they are also fleeting.
Don't underestimate people and their capacity to hear truth when said in love.
Truth can initially feels like condemnation. It feels like a torch being held up to the thing we were trying to hide.
When we don't understand the concept of something beautiful coming out of something difficult or painful (which most of us don't) it becomes very hard to look at it.
Unfortunately we've all had experiences when a flaw has been discovered and someone has reacted badly to it. Let's say you stole sweets from the newsagent when you were 7 years old and your mum found out and shouted and at you then ignored you for the rest of the journey home. Your boyfriend discovered you had a drinking problem and broke up with. I could go on and on but you get the point. We've all been in situations were opportunities of love were missed and so never accessed the mercy and greater depth of love that was on the other side. We've had those moments that somehow communicated to us that we were not good enough to be loved, when we most needed it.
So now when truth is discovered, one that can convict us potentially, our defences are up.
How do we enter into dialogue and have honest conversations about our world, now more than ever. ->Part Two