Around the yoga world, I hear a great deal about speaking our truth with grace. My teacher, Ana Forrest, initially brought this concept to my attention. Forrest writes in Fierce Medicine, “How incredibly sweet it is to be able to talk about what’s really important, stepping out from behind our facades and the stupid little conversations that we’re taught are a necessary social lubricant. ”
I view speaking truth as a pendulum that sways two ways. On one side, we avoid it all costs: We'd rather lie than speak what is true and make others uncomfortable. “How are you?” our friends ask. Never mind that you hate your job. Or that your partner just moved out unexpectedly. Or you’ve miscarried. Twice. We say, “Fine.”
On the other side, we hide behind this concept, using it as a blanket endorsement to verbally vomit on whomever crosses our path. You know these people — the ones who tell you their problems in an instant when you ask them how they are. Within 27 seconds you know more about them than you do many of your own family members. It is clear what their story is. By story, I mean the experience they cling to as part of their identity: “I took care of my ailing parents because my siblings wouldn’t,” or “I recently divorced my ex-husband who took my kids and left me with all the debt,” are their resentful salutations.
And perhaps, as unfortunate as it seems, that is their truth. But truth should evolve. Forrest writes, “Our truths grow as we grow. If you’re looking at the trunk of an elephant, your truth might be that you see a wrinkly snake. As you see more of the critter, your perception will grow because you have more information, but your first perception wasn’t wrong; it was the best you could do at the time. Honor that.”
For about a year, I held tightly to the truth-speaking concept. I spoke freely about it during my yoga classes. I practiced incorporating the grace piece because I've always been a straight shooter. I needed to soften the edges around truth and learn to speak it with care from a connected space of feeling.
Then, after a couple arguments with friends who proclaimed, “I’m speaking my truth here,” I stopped talking about truth speaking because it seemed truth has been misconstrued to mean a stream of consciousness excrement.
Attacking another person — with physical force or passive-aggressive words — is not speaking your truth with grace. Can we learn to search a little deeper inside? Can we learn to see our experiences through a wider lens?
When we say, “You’re so full of yourself,” perhaps, “I don’t feel like you value our friendship and take the time to care for my needs,” is more true.
When we say, “You humiliated me,” perhaps, “I felt embarrassed by the way in which you spoke to me,” is more true.
When we say, “You shouldn’t have done that,” perhaps, “That seemed like a betrayal of our trust and friendship,” is more true.
What I find missing from the truth is vulnerability. It takes courage to say, “I'm hurting.” So instead we cling to our stories of who hurt us. We set up shop as the victim and subconsciously continue to allow others to perpetrate us. We own our resentment because it’s preferable to our shame.
I see now that I’ve let the pendulum sway too far toward hiding my truth. I am revisiting this intricate concept. Like anything else, truth speaking requires practice, and the universe has been kind enough to offer me several opportunities in the past month. I’ve found this practice exhilarating — like a new pose. I've found the following to be helpful to remember:
Tap into your higher self. Call on your graces. Breathe. Speak from that space and speak to that person’s higher self.
Make peaceful resolution the intention. Certainly, part of truth speaking requires us to let go of the expectation of how the listener will respond, but Forrest’s question, “What can I say to help this moment of conflict come to resolution?” is a great guiding force. This reminds us not to sling shit in an attempt to protect ourselves.
Seek out the gift in the conversation. Sometimes what others say can shock us. “I had no idea you felt that way,” they might say, and suddenly we realize we’ve allowed our mind to construct a story about their intentions. Forrest writes, “When we Speak Truth to each other, once we get past the shock, it kindles the desire to hear the truth coming back at us.” This lends itself to deeper, more intimate relationships.
Let us continue to see the truth in ourselves so we can speak it to one another — with grace and love.