Speaking your truth also involves other less severe risks which usually come in the form of peoples’ negative responses.
The Inevitable Backlash
The criticism that comes from being honest always reminds me of those words spoken (or yelled) brilliantly by Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘A Few Good Men’ – “You can’t handle the truth.” I would change the word ‘the’ to ‘my’ as truth tends to be subjective. In my experience, there are three main categories of backlash: “You’re Judgmental”, “You’re Unforgiving” and “You’re Projecting.” Below is my understanding of these forms of disapproval as well as how to deal with them.
Those who call you ‘judgmental’ usually don’t realize that they themselves are being judgmental when they refer to you as such. The reality is that making judgments is a part of life. Think about how often you judge or discern whether someone/thing is good/bad, better/worse or right for you. Even if you are ‘spiritual’ believing that we are all One and that everything has a purpose, do you honestly like or ‘love’ everyone/thing you come across? Such value judgments are based on many and varied aspects: trust, respect, loyalty, an education, materialism, ‘fitting in’, religion, culture, social status, image, sensitivity, intelligence, humanitarianism, strength, integrity and so on. Your values reflect what is important to you; what is important to you is a representation of your Real Self.
When you accept that you are judgmental and that you will be judged, being real becomes so much easier.
There are a few schools of thought on ‘unforgiveness’: you are creating bad karma for yourself; it is bad for your health or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, it is warranted unless you see genuine remorse from those who have transgressed against you. My response to these beliefs is as follows: bad karma derives from intentional acts meant to exploit or harm another; your health depends upon how truthful you are with yourself; waiting for others to show remorse is dis-empowering because you’re depending on them to change for you.
Forgiveness is not something that can be forced. If it is important to you, work at it. You may find it difficult to do believing that you have to have ongoing relationships with those who have harmed you but this isn’t necessary. Some things are so much easier to condone than others – forgiving someone for gossiping about you is far more doable than forgiving someone who has raped and/or murdered your child.
Those who insist that you forgive usually have unresolved issues. For example, one of my mother’s neighbors is adamant that my mother forgive her sister when she (the neighbor) refuses to forgive her own sister (i.e. “Do as I say, not as I do”). Remind these people of their own stuff – this often results in them staying out of your emotional life.
This is a classic psychological justification which may be used by some to get you to stop speaking your truth by turning it back onto you. It involves perceiving negative qualities in others which are supposed to be a reflection of characteristics that you are not willing to own up to yourself. This is true in some instances – it is also inaccurate in many others. Confronting certain individuals (or groups, organizations etc) in relation to their mistreatment of you or bad behavior in general, is also known as “being assertive.” Their response to your assertiveness is their responsibility.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Reaching the Summit
In my mind’s eye, I always see the height of self-empowerment as the top of a mountain. When you begin your ascent by getting real with yourself and the world it is treacherous because you don’t know what unforeseen dangers lay ahead. Eventually after much work, pain, soul searching and disapproval from others, you will reach that pinnacle. From there you’ll feel peaceful, not caring about what others may think of you. Life’s challenges may cause you to stumble and fall a few feet but if you are committed to yourself you will climb back up again and again. Look down – see how far you’ve come. The price you paid for your integrity was worth every penny.