Luke 12:1-3 (CEV)
As thousands of people crowded around Jesus and were stepping on each other, he told his disciples:
Be sure to guard against the dishonest teaching of the Pharisees! It is their way of fooling people. 2 Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. 3 Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.
Just after our son died we were in church one day and someone asked the usual ‘how are you?’ question of me in the hallway, and I answered honestly. I think the words I said were ‘shitty, actually.’ And she replied with ‘that’s great’ or something to that effect, clearly not having even heard the words I had said, and walked off. You see, there was a ritual. You were supposed to greet people, and ask them how they were, and the person was supposed to say ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘busy’ or something to that effect, but no one was expecting a young, newly bereaved mom to actually answer truthfully.
Because that would be complicated.
That would be messy.
We might actually have to have a conversation about real, unpleasant things!
And although I do understand the social expectations surrounding this interaction – I understand that there are times and places for more and less honesty – I think that there is a way in which our dishonesty with each other and with ourselves can really cause us problems.
“I’m not worth loving.”
“I’m all alone.”
“I not a _____aholic.”
“I’ve got my anger under control.”
“They’re going to abandon me.”
Some of these might be true statements. But they might just as easily be dishonest. And if any of them are dishonest, then it’s ultimately us who has the most to loose.
Many of us go around lying to ourselves about the things in our lives that are hard or painful. It takes guts and tenacity and courage to face the truth when something has gone wrong in our lives. But in this passage and in others, Jesus offers a choice: practice radical, non-violent truth-telling now – and experience the freedom and lightness of living a full and abundant life here and now – or practice repressive, violent, dishonesty now – and know that eventually the truth will come out anyways.
If all the secrets will one day be known, what’s the point of living under the weight of them any longer?
If everything that is hidden will one day be revealed, where’s the value in trying to keep the lid closed on the cellar of a painful past, when all it is doing is putting slivers in your butt?
If the things that are whispered in a darkened closed room will someday be shouted from the housetops in broad daylight, wouldn’t it be a good idea to be really honest about what we’re saying now, so that when it gets out (in social media, or in your community, or wherever it might end up) there are no painful surprises?
More and more, scientists are discovering that our dishonesty and repression are actually making us sick. In some cases it can lead to things like cancer and autoimmune disorders as much or more than the genetic predispositions or environmental factors we’ve typically blamed those things on. But Jesus’ call to us two thousand years ago gives us an idea of what we can do about it. We can learn to be radically, gently honest with ourselves. I call this radical, non-violent truthtelling.
We can create safe spaces in deep relationships where we can learn to extend that honesty to one another. We can adopt an attitude of humility that says, ‘I’m not yet where I want to be … this is where I am right now, but I’m also on a journey, and this is not where I intend to stay.’
Because here’s the thing. If we want to experience transformation, we have to start by being honest about where we are right now, and how different that might be from where we want to be.
And then, when you know the “truth, the truth will set you free.”
One of the best exercises if you want to begin practicing radical, non-violent truth-telling is the practice of Examen. If you’re going to try these exercises, be aware that you might find truth that you didn’t know was there. If you have experienced trauma in your life, it may be best to talk with a coach, counsellor, pastor or therapist before beginning this process. Regardless, I strongly encourage you to sit down with a friend or your partner – someone you trust, who loves you unconditionally – and talk to them about the things you discover.
Here’s my take on a nightly practice of Examen questions. Feel free to work your way through a different question each night over the course of several days:
- Sometimes our biggest dishonesty comes in not recognizing the presence, love, provision and protection, of God in our lives.
- Ask yourself what activity today gave me the greatest high?
- Which one made me feel low?
- Would you be willing to ask God to show you these experiences through his eyes?
- Were there moments of grace today that maybe you missed?
- Sometimes our biggest dishonesty comes in not accurately telling the stories of our relationships.
- Ask yourself, who did I interact with today?
- Did anything I say/not say to them come out of a place of fear? If so, what was I afraid of?
- Did anything I did/not do come out of a place of fear?
- If so, what was I afraid of? (It’s easy to play the blame-game here, but it can be helpful to ask yourself ‘why’ five times, as you try to get down to the root of the issue.)
- Ask yourself, who did I interact with today?
- What about the other side of your relationships?
- Were there ways in which people showed up or failed to show up that were hurtful?
- Ways that were helpful?
- What is the truth behind that ‘behavioural’ issue your child is having or the fight you keep circling back to with your partner?
- What would it look like to see them through eyes of love instead of eyes of (understandable) frustration?
- Sometimes our biggest dishonesty comes in not accurately identifying our own emotions.
- Make a list of feeling words. For example: accepted, anxious, apathetic, confused, defeated, disgusted, ecstatic, enraged, paranoid, weepy, undecided.
- How many of these words can you recognize in yourself?
- Begin to ask God to show you what emotions you were feeling throughout the day.
- How can you begin to tell the truth to yourself about your own emotions in the coming days and weeks?
- Sometimes our biggest dishonesty comes in not being attuned to our bodies.
- Many of us grew up in churches where the body was seen as something negative or broken or even sinful, but Jesus reminds us to “love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (body)”, and to love God with this part of our self we need to be connected with it and be honest about it.
- Take some time to lay down on the floor. (Better yet, try this outside on the grass or the sand while it’s summer!) Spend 5-10 minutes breathing deeply and slowly, and check in with your body from head to toes.
- Where are you holding tension?
- Where do you have pain?
- Are you tired?
- Worn out?
- Where do you feel connected to your body?
- Where do you feel disconnected?
- Can you think of some amazing things your body has done today?
- Are there things you are disappointed about in your body?
- What truth is God trying to tell you through your body?
- Are you able to thank God honestly for the body that you actually have?