There is a truth telling movement emerging. Telling the truth on climate change, telling the truth on what happened during colonisation, telling the truth in the board room – these truth telling moments are playing out in the media and in Royal Commissions and in conversations where counsel is being sought. Truth telling is finding its way through fake news and alternative facts. And what happens when the “truth be told”? What is unleashed? What is recovered? What is redeemed? What is reconciled? Does it bring liberation or more enslavement?
There is the Christian mantra that the “truth will set you free: and Iyanla Vanzant added to that by saying: “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labour pains of birthing it.” And like birthing, truth comes out squeezing and heaving its way often through narrow passages pulsating between contractions and expansions of the muscles that are trying to move it out into the open. The darkness can hide, but nothing like sunlight as a disinfectant.
I have noticed working at the edges and massaging the data to make things look better, to apply my best spin doctor techniques, even getting a bigger re-frame are all psychological gymnastics to get me further from the truth. In the end reality plays the trump card and the game is up. I recently watched a long and slow wriggle and side step in a situation that had been brewing for a long time. Numerous attempts had been made to try and set things right, but there was a fundamental premise which was wrong, on which the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, was going to be able to set a new course of action. It was liberating to watch unfold but the labour pains were real for all involved, and not the least the person who took up the mantle of truth teller.
I am faced regularly with the dilemma of telling the truth, or perhaps succumbing to some sugar-coating, or at least trying to wrap it in words of compassion. But in the end, it is the truth, naked and raw, that exposes what has been hidden at best and deception at worst. It is inevitable truth will disarm. There is no unhearing or unseeing once the truth has been revealed. There is no going back only going forward. The Dragnet line – just the facts ma’am – is an attempt to get to the naked truth, no embellishments, not cloaked in adjectives, just plain and simple about what can be seen and understood. It seems so simple, so why is it so hard?
I have witnessed many face difficult and unbearable truths about their health and we are facing all the news we can about our planet’s well-being. Sometimes preferring to turn away so we don’t have to face facts. Facing facts head on requires courage, tenacity and lots of deep breathing. It calls us to action and to places we didn’t want to go.
I am discovering all kinds of truths in parts of my life and some of them are very, very unpleasant; about people and systems I have loved and trusted. Getting to the facts, is deep emotional labour. It hurts. I sometimes struggle to see how it could possibly be setting me free. I move between shock and disbelief just as a climate denier might when struggling to come to terms with compelling and overwhelming evidence. All the signs in the landscape but my lens and data filters not attuned to the frequencies where I might have picked up the information earlier. Walk on pilgrim, it is inevitable that sooner or later sparks will fly.