Brutal Truth. That moment when Life holds a mirror up to your face and forces you to take a gritty, raw look at what you see before you. And Brutal Truth cannot be avoided or dismissed. Brutal Truth stays until you look, until you see. To me, Brutal Truth’s other name is Tough Love.
When Brutal Truth appears, I often find Shame shows up, too. The difference between these two, is, however, extreme. Shame is there to try to make us feel like we should slink away into the shadows and never show our faces again. As Brene Brown puts it, in her achingly beautiful and human way:
“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough….Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (The Gifts of Imperfection)
Brutal Truth is very different, though it often doesn’t feel any different from Shame. Sometimes I cannot tell them apart until I really sit with myself and realize Shame is giving me the excuse to hide. And then I see that Brutal Truth comes in peace and more importantly, comes in love. Do you know J. Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities? Her personification of these pieces of ourselves astonishes me in her accuracy and humanity. Of Truth she writes:
“Truth has been employed as a thief stealing illusions….When Truth’s fingers touch my shoulder, I hear bone touching bone….He lingers in the long pauses between the questions and the answers…Truth is willing to wait for a long time with little attention or visible encouragement. Truth is not willing to live without Love.”
And when I can come to that and realize that Brutal Truth is actually genuine love, then I can start working to send Shame on its way. So I find myself back again at this core reality that if we can open our hearts, painful as it will be, we will find truth, honesty, and compassion. In this case, Brutal Truth comes only because of the need to share compassion, care, and concern. But mercy, such truths can hurt like hell and rock your world.
How does Brutal Truth bring genuine Love? As I was reading more just now, I found this. Gendler writes, “Trust is the daughter of Truth….she is the mother of Love.” Yes, there must be Trust for Brutal Truth to bring Love. Otherwise, when there is no trust and no love, THEN there is Shame. So if we can truly trust the one handing us the Brutal Truth, we will know it is offered from a place of Love.
It’s a lot. And it’s more than a lot in the moment when the truth hits. But maybe if we can open our hearts more, we can trust more, we can love more, and we can face those Brutal Truths without letting Shame in.
I’m going to try.