Practice Telling Truths

Spiritual practices are not always grand and pronounced. The sustained practices–and the sustaining practices–are those gestures we regularly engage with and which call no fanfare. One essentially spiritual practice is telling the truth.

Telling the truth is saying what is real, what is observable by others, and what is experienced by others. Someone else always corroborates truth. It’s not private. Truth is public. Telling the truth is a public act. It is generous because it always involves you saying what is real to someone else. It’s what someone else says to you that you know is true.

Even if you have not seen or handled or read what you’ve been told is true, truth resonates. On the other hand, when you get accustomed to telling truths, your sensitivity to untruths heightens. When you’re used to being honest, being anything else grates what has become a core characteristic.

It also stings to experience lies, untruths, and exaggerations which are themselves an experience in seeing how far you can get by experimenting with lies. Lies, untruths, and exaggerations all distort you. They all distance you from what is real. Eventually you lose the ability to experience the truth. Eventually your perception becomes unreal. Your character becomes false. Eventually you can’t see the difference between truth and lies because you have so frequently smudged that difference that it’s gone.

If there is an antidote, it is in the simple, small practice of telling the truth.

It’s Hard Giving Feedback

I have a smart mouth. At least that’s what my mother always told me. I think she’s right. She’s good at telling the truth. But I’ve also worked very hard not to use that smart mouth unless I have to, unless I’m hungry, or unless I’m impatient with the listener.

I noticed two things the other day. First, it’s hard to give feedback when the feedback stings. Second, it’s hard to soften words that are inherently sharp.

I was giving feedback the other day to someone, and I didn’t use my smart mouth. I used the best approach I could. I wanted good for this person, a student of mine. And it was still hard to tell the truth. I’ve been teaching graduate students for eight years and giving critical feedback is still a task.

So the next time you hear hard feedback, take a breath as you take in the words. It may be as hard to say as it is to hear.