Friday, August 19, 2011

the softer side of truth

(Trust 30 Prompt 21)

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hard words ... or soft? Does the truth have to hurt? Why is brutal honesty better than compassionate honesty? I see no reason why what is true is not just as true if it's gently delivered. Yes, sometimes a 'strongly worded' message comes across most clearly, but if it is delivered with such force that it's not received, what is the point? And for me, what's most true is love - they strengthen each other, when combined. And fail when they are separated.

I've been thinking a lot recently about an old friend of mine. We were close at one time - he is 10 or 15 years younger than me and when we met he adopted me as proto-big sister. It was great. I helped him settle into adulthood, and we shared some fun and poignant and adventurous times together. 

We spent less and less time together as he adjusted to his new city, made friends his own age, and relied on my friendship less to get by. The affection was there, but something else had crept in - something that fed on distance. One day I noticed that on Facebook I only had limited access to his profile. I didn't say anything, thinking he has every right to show or hide whatever he chooses. That's the point of flexible profiles. It hurt a little, but not enough to mention. 

Time marched on, our life circumstance changed more, and we no longer see each other as a matter of course, though we still share some circles. I recently over-heard a mutual friend describing him as 'this great gay man ...' - I was stunned. Not that he was gay - I'd wondered a time or two, but never really thought that much about it one way or another since it was completely irrelevant to our friendship. No, the realisation that stopped me in my tracks was that this friend wasn't comfortable with my knowing he was gay. He'd never in all the time we spent together mentioned it. He'd known this woman only a month or two and shared with her about his relationship. I looked back and realised that the divide in our friendship had coincided with his increasing time with a male friend, someone this mutual friend assured me is now his partner. 

I wonder what I said, or did, that made it unsafe for my friend to be honest with me. Did some flippant untruth come out of my mouth that convinced him I would love him any less if I knew? I know what's true for me - that love is - period. End of story. But what about me, and my love for this friend, failed to communicate that truth? 

The truth isn't 'out there.' It isn't 'inconvenient.' There isn't just one moment of it. And it isn't hard to find. It just is. And maybe we (I) kill it a little every time I think I'm being funny but I'm really being thoughtless. 

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