A key aspect of our relationships, no matter which kind, is the foundation of truth and honesty they are built on. We, as a society, depend on the ability to trust each other, and to be able to speak our truths and trust that they will be received.
However, many of us struggle with this. The concept of speaking one’s truth can become convoluted, especially when the truth is emotional, and carries with it the potential to hurt someone else.
I want to address a few questions I’ve heard asked recently, within the realm of truth and honesty in relationships. Hopefully this will give you a clear understanding of how you can address these – and similar – issues in your own life.
When to speak your truth
We are often told that we should always speak our truths, that holding our tongues will only lead to greater issues down the line. And for the most part, this is true. As the saying goes, the truth shall set us free. But, is there ever a time where you shouldn’t speak your truth to someone else?
An important point to consider here is that speaking one’s truth requires knowing both what that truth is, and where it comes from. Does it come from our Defended Self? Is it based in fear? Does it come from a place where we have an agenda or a judgment in place?
At COR, we distinguish between the relative and the bigger truth. Sometimes, our truths are what feels like the truth to us, but they may be missing a key piece from the other person’s perspective, and thus they may not be the entire truth at all. Consider the difference between the statements, “you are annoying”, and “I am annoyed.” The first is much more subjective and does not necessarily reflect the entire truth, whereas the second is a much more accurate representation of one’s own truth.
On the other hand, when we are inclined to hold our tongue and to not speak up, we have to determine where the desire to not speak our truth comes from. Does it come from your Healthy Self? Can you discern that this truth you speak will only create harm and therefore you shouldn’t speak it? Or, are you not speaking it to protect yourself? To protect the other person? Are you making a decision for them about what you think they can handle? We often do this to avoid conflict or rejection.
Moving on from broken trust
Another question that commonly arises in conversations around honesty in relationships is, how can you truly trust someone again after being lied to? Is it even possible?
Once again, this is a complicated question to answer. Ultimately, learning to trust someone again after a significant lie, or multiple lies over time, is a process. Lying comes at a cost; building up trust is hard, and any setbacks can take twice as long to recover from again.
However, it is possible to do.
The first step is to tell the person who hurt you how you feel. Let them know the trust is broken, and acknowledge that you are struggling with it. Next, determine for yourself if it is even worth rebuilding the trust, or if you even want to. Finally, you must discover what you need in order to be able to trust that person again. That in and of itself can be a long process, and it may change over time. The important thing is that the other person needs to know what you need, and you must ask if they are willing to do that for you, for the relationship.
If you do all of this and they are willing to give you what you need, only then you can start moving forwards. It can be done, but transparency is key, and setbacks are common. Remember that it can be very useful to get outside help, such as therapy, to help you build new habits and bring honesty back into the relationship.
Honoring your boundaries
It is a very common experience to feel as though one’s family does not understand or respect one’s boundaries. We often feel scared and uncomfortable when our boundaries are not respected; in fact, it can even feel like a violation. But it can also be hard to bring them up, particularly to family.
Step one in honoring your boundaries around family is to allow yourself to actually feel the pain. Acknowledge the difficulty of bringing up uncomfortable feelings to those who have known you longest. It is hard, and that’s a natural fear.
Step two is attempt to see their perspective as well. See if you can recognize that it’s hard to be told you’re doing something that hurts someone else. It’s an uncomfortable position to find yourself in, particularly if you didn’t realize you were doing it. This step can be very hard, but having compassion for the other person in a disagreement is key to healthy conversation.
Step three is to be truthful, and speak what you need. Compassion towards yourself is just as important as having compassion for others, and you are responsible for ensuring your needs are met. This doesn’t have to be harsh, but it does have to be firm.
Make sure you have a support system to help you, either someone to speak to and wind down with afterwards, or to gear you up before. This is an important element of self-care, of making your needs met. Even just knowing you have someone in your corner, just a call away, can help give you the strength you need to approach difficult conversations with those you love.
Discerning which “truth” is actually true
The last issue I want to address on this subject is somewhat related to the first: How can I discern if my “truth” is real?
We often operate from our Survivor Selves. We feel hurt, betrayed, or a multitude of other negative feelings. So when we feel like we need to speak our “truth”, it may be caught up in a variety of other emotions that war and twist it into a version of what we really feel.
One way to distinguish this from our real truth is to consider how it affects us. Real truth – in the way we’re using it here – means my deepest perspective, value, or experience. Our real truth doesn’t feel clingy, it doesn’t grasp. Our Survivor Self, or our defensive self, guards us tightly and makes us feel righteous. So, if there is no willingness and openness to listen to the other person, or if we feel charged and strongly attached to our truth and our agenda, then it is not really our truth. Our real truth, from the Healthy Self, is clear and not attached to the other person’s reaction.
Self-compassion is key
The main theme in the answers to all of these questions and conversations is compassion. Cultivating truth and honesty requires deep discovery within oneself, to understand the intentions, desires, and needs at your core. In its purest form, self-compassion is self-care, and it must be practiced in order to stay within our Healthy Selves.
If you have a different question around truth and honesty that you want advice on, feel free to reach out to any of the COR team.