Gentleness with the Truth

I’ve had another epiphany recently. I’ve had a lot of those lately, when I used to only have one per year, if that. My latest epiphany is simple: It is perfectly possible to be fierce with the truth while also being gentle.

For those who think I suddenly discovered the value of being nice, first of all, I am not talking about niceness, and secondly, my views on niceness haven’t changed (I still think niceness is meaningless). I guess I should also say: Thirdly, it has never been within my nature to intentionally be mean to people, only honest. It is immature to believe that meanness and honesty are the same thing.

Here’s the thing about myself: Since I was a teenager, when I chose to break away from typical behavior of keeping secrets and telling white lies, I have had complete disregard for how the truth affects people emotionally. That’s where I think the confusion about me as a person comes from. It was never intentional meanness, it was disregard for something I can’t control, which is how people emotionally react to information.

What only reinforced this was that I have always believed that people never accept the truth in the first place unless you present it to them raw. The rawer the better. Again, immature types, it’s not meanness. I meant ‘raw’ very intentionally. Now, the importance of truth and wisdom being ‘raw’ is true in day-to-life as well, not just with social interaction. “Learning things the hard way” is what I’m talking about here. Whether it is experience, or words, I observed that people never learn things unless the lesson breaks through their barriers. Ignorance is a barrier, cowardice is a barrier, delusion is a barrier… The truth needs to break through these barriers in order to reach the person at all. Nobody learns harsh lessons when these lessons are presented too softly and/or indirectly.

Failing at a skill is harsh, but it teaches. Failing at a competition is harsh, but it teaches. Even failing at a relationship is harsh, but it teaches.

If you still wet the bed at the age of 15, you’re not going to realize you should know better if someone tells you, “Well, nobody’s perfect. Some people stop wetting the bed early in life, some people stop later.”

No, it would help absolutely nothing to soften the truth like that. The truth is, “You shouldn’t keep wetting the bed at 15 years old.”

That manner of frankness has always been my style … until now. There are other ways that are equally as effective, if not more so.

I still believe the truth needs to break through a person’s mental barriers in order to get through at all, but my latest epiphany is about exactly this. It is possible to be fierce with the truth while also being gentle. How is it possible to keep believing the truth must be raw and break through mental barriers, and yet it can also be gentle?

What I realized is not something that replaces what I thought before, but rather adds to it. What I now realize is not just possible, but actually more effective. The method is what matters. The truth can break through barriers without passion, or (less favorably) anger. The truth can be presented in the following ways without being too soft to be effective:

1: Say it through questions.

Questions are incomplete by nature. They need an answer. When you ask questions, it requires someone to think first before speaking. If you ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answer. Try getting the person to learn, or understand, by getting them to explain to themselves. Avoid making it seem patronizing, of course. It’s essentially a walkthrough. Along the way, you will probably hit an obstacle, and that’s when you realize what’s preventing that person from understanding what they need to understand. Questions reveal the roadblocks. Questions are also just more calming. And I don’t say ‘roadblocks’ accidentally. Just like on a road, if you travel too fast and hit a bump, it’s going to hurt. If you drive too fast, you will collide with obstacles rather than safely maneuvering around them. It is the same way with our minds, especially when it concerns what we know and don’t know. Questions are also an opportunity for you to learn something as well, because maybe your question will be answered with something you never thought of before.

2: Build up to what they need to know.

Kind of like the first point, without the questions. This sounds like it would need practice, but it doesn’t, actually. Just remember to explain your entire thought process about why you think what you think. Whether you are trying to remember something accurately, or educate someone, or trying to impart wisdom, it’s easy, and more effective, to simply explain your entire thought process. My problem with explaining what I think/believe, has always been jumping straight to the point. It’s the verbal equivalent of blowing your load too early; it may work for some, but it’s not going to work for most.

3: Don’t feed them more than they can chew.

Information is to the mind what food is to the mouth; if you have too much at once, you’ll just spit it out. Knowledge and wisdom are a lot like raising a child. One’s own knowledge base is very similar to how people themselves physically grow. Early in life, we can only handle liquids, or very tiny bits. Later in life, you can eat steak, but it still needs to be chewed. Same with information. Some people can handle large slices, but they still need to chew it, and you must be conscious of that. Even after I have learned something, or had an epiphany like this post, I still need time to process it and really let it settle into the sand.

All in all, the truth does need to break through barriers of ignorance, stubbornness, cowardice, and delusion, but my mistake throughout all my life is being overly direct and blunt. That’s why it always came across as mean to most people.

There are gentle ways to say what needs to be said.