A little bit of honesty never went astray

There seems to be a lot going on at the moment around me. Not just the usual stuff, Christmas and shopping and end of school and general December madness, but big stuff. Death, illness, uncertainty. Tragedies that break my heart, that I have no easy answers for, especially when we’ve experienced the opposite–such blessing and abundance around us. I have friends who are hurting. There are no easy answers, or if there are, the answer is “sometimes things just suck”.

Where’s the hope and joy and peace when people you love are being ripped from you?

Where’s the blessing of the virgin birth and the miracle of baby Jesus when there are children left without parents, and parents left without children? How do you “ho ho ho” when it takes all your strength to get out of bed in the morning and make breakfast without breaking down again?

I tried to put on some Christmas music yesterday. Took it off again. Put on something less hopeful, less joyous.

So this morning, this post is for those friends, the ones for whom life is making no sense at Christmas. The ones whose trees are shrouded in grief. The ones who are struggling to wrap presents because everything seems so futile. This is my little attempt to share in your sorrows, and, instead of offering platitudes of “God is with you, go and be well”, sitting in the dirt with you for a few minutes and saying “I understand”.

Here is my small offering. It’s the one part of the Bible I refused to read for a number of years when I was younger: Psalm 22. The one right before the one that everybody knows.

“God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning. And you! Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise? We know you were there for our parents: they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life. And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm, something to step on, to squash. Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads: “Let’s see how God handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!” (that’s from the translation called The Message, by the way).

Life can suck. And it can suck especially when Christmas is just around the corner. If it sucks for you today, I just want to let you know that I hear you. It’s okay to be honest about how you’re really feeling. Hang in there, okay?

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“But Mummy, The Emperor has no clothes on!”

By the end of childhood, if we’ve grown up well and successfully, most of us seem to end up with two lessons firmly instilled in our minds:

  1. Be honest.
  2. 2. Be nice.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, the subtle message that we’re given is that 2 overrides 1. So don’t be honest if it means being not nice.

Eh? I, for one, am beginning to notice the flaws in this.

I was chatting with a friend last night and she said some powerful words: Not Telling All The Truth is the Same As Lying.

It’s a funny boundary. I’m not sure what I think of this statement right now. I understand that sometimes there’s just too much truth to tell, and because it’s understood implicitly we don’t need to state it. My friend doesn’t walk into my house and say “wow this place is messy and what’s that funny smell coming from the corner?” (possibly because it’s usually in some degree of mess, although as soon as I figure out what that funny smell is coming from it will be gone!) although to do so would be an expression of truth, and she’s not lying because she didn’t say anything.

If, on the other hand, before she got up on stage before a large audience she asked me “Do I look fat in this?” and I said “No!” (truthfully) but neglected to tell her that the back of her dress was caught up in her undies, then that’s kind of what she means.

Sometimes we need to say the hard stuff.

Being the first person to say it will always be hard. You will always feel stupid, or wrong, or maligned or ashamed for doing so.Sometimes though, if things need to change, being honest is the only thing to do.

The dangers of honesty

Books are dangerous. Well, words are dangerous, and that’s what books are full of: words.

I blogged here about the power of words, and I blogged here about the book I was reading, so I won’t repeat myself today, except to say that that book triggered things in me that I truly wasn’t expecting. I don’t imagine the author would be expecting that kind of response from her book either, because the pyrotechnics inside of me had virtually nothing to do with what was happening in the narrative.

Has that ever happened to you? Is it just me? I have to confess, sometimes when I’m watching movies or TV I pay more attention to the set design than the plot. I can get a bit tangential at times (oh hello, like, possibly, now Megan?) and halfway through The Mentalist when my husband turns to me and says “do you have any ideas?” the first thing I want to answer is “Yes. Our mantelpiece would look great in that colour”.

ANYWAY…and back to the point…

The point is, there’s something about the power of true and honest words sent forth that unlock the true and honest words inside the person who receives them. Honesty begets honesty, if you like. Saying the truth about what’s happening inside you actually frees up other people to say the truth about what’s happening inside them as well. And often the truths are different, the what’s-happening is different, but the honesty, the vulnerability, the shapes of our soul are the same. And so are the fake words that wallpaper over the truth of who (and how) we really are. We buy the latest soul-covers from magazine lift-outs sometimes, and we change the language to reflect the trending décor, and all that is fine, it’s how we live and deal with the world on a daily basis. But there are times, like when some book is published without it’s hip-coloured, hot-textured soul-cover on and the sheer force of its nakedness blows off your own and you find yourself vulnerable and bare in the powerful face of true and honest words.

Words can be dangerous, and books can be dangerous because books are full of words. True words, honest words. Words that open us up on the inside, and words that heal the mess that’s lying dormant there. I’m going to do it again today – read a book, that is. I’m a wild risk-taker like that. What do you reckon, care to join me?