February 15

Phrases that Mislead, Part 1

February 15, 2016

Personal Growth

In Real Love groups, conference calls, and other interactions, certain phrases have crept into use that are not consistent with the principles of Real Love, or that might cause confusion by their use. In this blog we will discuss one such phrase, and in subsequent blogs we’ll talk about some others.

MY TRUTH / YOUR TRUTH

In support groups and in self-help literature, the expression “my truth” has become very common:

“I would like to share my truth.”
“This is my truth.”
“My truth may be different from your truth.”

Ironically, this expression is often used to defend a position that is not true. Recently, for example, I told a woman that she was afraid and angry, and she responded—angrily—“That’s not MY truth. You cannot tell me my truth.”

Her implication—along with that of many people who use the phrase “my truth”—was that she had some ownership over truth, or that truth somehow bent to her will.

The potential dangers of this expression are worth mentioning. Truth is not changed by our opinion of it. Truth is what is established to be real. It’s factual. It is true, for example, that 2 + 2 = 4. It is true that the mass of the earth exerts a gravitational pull that causes an object at the surface to fall at 32 feet per second per second. Gravity is simply a law, or a truth. There is no “my gravity” or “your gravity.” My belief about gravity does not change its effect.

“The truth” applies also to our feelings and behaviors. Denying our anger—or our selfishness—does not change the truth of it. If we are angry or selfish, that is “the truth,” and no statement of “my truth” will change that. The expression “my truth” allows us to use a powerful word to make our perceptions and even lies into something more acceptable. It allows us to hide our lies.

We are much better served by correctly and rigorously identifying our mistakes and lies than by hiding them in any way, including the use of popular phrases like “my truth.”

Are there occasions when it would ever be appropriate for someone to state “the truth” about something difficult to quantify—like feelings or judgments? Yes, an experienced wise person or coach might on occasion say things like the following:

“Right now you’re afraid, and your fear is blinding you to what is happening and making you deaf to what is being said.”
“You are so angry at your husband most of the time that it makes no sense to talk about his behavior. Until your anger is almost eliminated, you won’t make any positive difference in his life anyway.”
“So far in this conversation you have blamed everyone in your life but yourself for your unhappiness. You are welcome to do that, but it will never make you happy.”

I hasten to state that before making categorical statements of “the truth” like those above, we need to be dead certain of them, but in many cases people are greatly calmed and certainly better guided when they sense the confidence of someone who can speak “the truth.”

So what if we’re not experienced at stating the truth? What could we say instead of “my truth” or “your truth” that would be more accurate and helpful?

“I would like to share an experience.”
“I would like to share a conclusion I have made as a result of my experiences.”
“Your assessment of your feelings, while sincere, is simply not true. Rather, you are stating what would make you look good or excuse your behavior.”
“My opinion is . . .”

In future blogs we’ll discuss more phrases that can be misleading in our discussions of Real Love.

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