Have you ever been on the receiving end of the phrase, “I’m just being honest,” or worse ever been known to utter such a phrase? I know I have and I’d like to commit to ending it right here! Think about it, if we have to say, “I’m just being honest,” then what was said wasn’t really for us at all, it was for them. The person on the other end of those words, the hearing end, the end in which feelings are inevitably going to get hurt – we knew it too, before we said anything, that’s why we needed the qualifier in the first place.
That phrase is ripe with excuse, the behind the scenes excuse which allows us to say whatever we want and of course we can’t be held accountable because, “We’re just being honest.” But, self-appointed judge, presiding over everyone and everything with whom/with which we come in contact is not a real thing. Contrary to what we may have been told it is not our right, not even according to the first amendment, to use language to demean and discriminate.
Yes, the first amendment does restrict the government’s ability to stifle our speech and that was done to ensure that government acts fairly. But, that’s not what we’re talking about here, what we’re talking about is moral law. Satya (truth), the second of the yamas (restraints), is known as righteous speech; the kind of speech which ensures that not only do we speak the truth in order to honor communication and each other, but that we do so without harm (himsa).
Last week we set the challenge to refrain from judgement, giving ourselves the opportunity to see the truth between perceptions, how did it go? Did you feel as if you were holding something back, I did! It was super challenging to keep my mouth shut when I felt aggrieved. For instance, driving is not my jam, in fact it may be my least favorite thing to do, ever. Earlier this week a car behind me honked because I took too long at the stop light. I didn’t follow my own challenge and angrily waved my hand in the driver’s direction and shouted nonsense out the window because… I was mad.
After all the light had only changed a few seconds before, the driver hadn’t been waiting long and I was just about to get moving when I heard it, the honk. I began imagining a scenario in which I got to tell the driver exactly what was going through my mind – haha, vindication! (Even if it was only a conversation taking place in my head.) But, as I carefully formulated and played, and sadly replayed, my defense in my head, I realized something, I didn’t need to be this angry over something so silly. In fact, that driver probably hasn’t had a second thought about the incident and yet I was still playing it over and over in my mind.
WHAT??? Since when did my truth become so important that I argued it to myself, not only once, but again and again? Also, my truth led to me yelling at someone which didn’t change anything; the driver could absolutely see my visibly angry reaction and had no context for my anger, and there it is, harm. Ugh, in an effort to stand up for myself, my truth, I hurt someone, maybe not significantly; I certainly hope not, but I did it.
Here’s the thing, we’re not impervious to feelings and our feelings are absolutely important, but so are the feelings of others. We have to be responsible to ensuring, to the best of our ability, not to react in anger or ignorance while still speaking our truth. The good news; we can speak with total honesty, not harm, and still get our point across and our feelings known. There are even organizations out there whose job it is to teach us how to practice satya (truth). Please don’t take this as promotion to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to learn how to avoid harmful communication, but please do listen, observe, reflect, and then speak. It may take a little longer to communicate in the short run, but in the long run we’ll save countless time and words on apologizing later!