“Speak the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15
Twenty years ago I faced a decision: continue to lie about my sexual orientation or tell my parents the truth. I realized that I was closing my heart to them in order to protect myself and that the only way to have an adult relationship was to tell them the full truth, which I did. It was painful for us all, but, in time, with immense patience, we came to a place of honest, loving relationship.
We often pit truth and love as opponents in a virtuous battle in which there can only be one winner. We set up a false equation in which we must choose between truth and love, and end up having neither.
We just came out of an election in which both truth and love were largely absent. The result is a nation divided, hurt, resentful, anxious, angry, confused, and distrustful. Some are happy that their candidate(s) won, but immense damage has been done to our nation-family, and a troubling future looms.
So what now?
Discard the myth that truth and love are somehow incompatible. The path before us requires that we practice both together.
The Sufi poet Rumi wrote: “Out beyond notions of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
That field is Love. It is a place of unconditional positive regard, even for those whose thoughts and behaviors we loathe. True love is a choice, not a feeling. It is hard work. It’s much easier to demolish someone’s hypocrisy on Facebook or Twitter than it is to engage in honest dialog.
In that field beyond right and wrong, we meet others as they are, listen, learn, and start to understand.
And in that field, we are also free to speak the unvarnished truth with the intention of remaining in relationship with those with differing views. That field beyond “right and wrong” does not ask as to surrender to evil, but rather we are asked to surrender our self-righteousness, moral superiority, and smug certainty,
This is the pivot, the twist, the middle way. While we radiate respect and seek to understand “the other”, we give no ground to misogyny, racism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, destruction of the planet, economic injustice, etc. We speak the truth in love, realizing, with humility, that we too have our own “isms”, ignorance, and arrogance.
The how of our response becomes very bit as important as the what. We choose to “go high” even when others “go low”. In our crusades to be right, we can become just as vile as “those people” whom we condemn. Only by holding love and truth together can we heal, do justice, and make peace.
When I came out to my parents I learned that it takes time for beliefs and irrational fears to shift. Only in loving, patient, and courageously honest relating can such shifts happen. I had to say “no” and refuse to stay silent when horrible things were said or done. Yet, I chose to stay in relationship and keep doing the difficult, messy work of listening, forgiving, speaking up with firm love, and owning my own issues. That’s the key. Change happens in relationship, not through social media exchanges or even by winning the next argument or election.
Transformation of a family or a nation occurs when we tend both truth and love, when we choose right relationship over self-righteousness, when we have the courage to return, over and over, to that field beyond right and wrong. I’ll meet you there.