dictionary-series-philosophy-truthI wasn’t planning to write this post.  Like a lot of other people today,  among them the ever thoughtful and thought provoking writer Will Reichard, I’ve been thinking about truth and the consequences of speaking it.  Will talks,  and rightly so,  about the fact that extremists understand the power of the truth,  and try to shut down that power by shutting up those who speak it.    His solution is that we all be brave and keep shouting our truths regardless of the threats that are aimed at getting us to stop.   I like his idea.  Speaking the truth,  telling the truth,  especially when people would rather you didn’t is more than just important,  it’s vital.   There may be consequences for telling the truth,  but the consequences for not telling can be worse.  I know,  I live with some of those consequences every day.

I don’t talk much about my biggest episode of truth telling.  That was one of the strictures placed on me when I first started telling this particular truth,  that is wasn’t nice,  that people would feel uncomfortable,  that people would think badly of me if I told.   That I’d get people in trouble which, I suppose, I did,  as one man ended up spending time in jail as a result of this truth and my telling of it.  That’s one of the consequences of truth telling,  the truth you speak can have a huge impact on those around you, and sometimes that impact is negative.   I don’t regret what happened,   the damage inflicted on me by this particular man is something I deal with to this day,   and him going to jail was just.    He knew the truth would hurt, especially him,  and  he spent a lot of time making sure I wouldn’t tell it.   In a weird way,  the fact that I was finally able to tell is a kind of victory.  In the end I valued myself and the truth more than I valued being accepted or nice or quiet.

Still,  there were a lot of years when I didn’t speak this truth,  and that’s the consequence that haunts me the most.   There  were other young girls harmed by this man as well,  four that I know of,  more that I’ll probably never know.    I don’t know if I was the first,  judging by the way he arranged things and controlled me,  I’d guess not,  but neither was I the last.   There were four more young women,  probably, like me,  just learning how to be women and coming into their sexuality,  who experienced some version of what I experienced.   It took several years after I finally put a stop to what was happening to me before I was able to speak the truth of what I knew.  In that time other young women were harmed.    I didn’t speak the truth,  and now other people have a truth of their own to speak that they might not have had had I spoken my truth sooner.  That’s a thought that has caused more than one sleepless night.

Truth is powerful.   Not telling it allows bad things to happen,  but so,  sometimes,  does telling the truths you know.   The journalists in France were simply telling their truths and they kept telling them after threats were made and violence was used in an attempt to make them stop.   Some people don’t want to hear the truth,  it makes them uncomfortable,  it threatens them,  it makes them look bad,  and so they’ll do what they can to stop it being spoken.  Sometimes they send people with guns and the silence of death.   Other times it’s simply a gentle pressure toward silence applied by people who are supposed to love you and have your best interests at heart.

There will always be people telling us to shut up,  in gentle and not so gentle ways.  The trick is not to listen.   It’s not about speaking the truth because if we don’t the terrorists win,  or speaking the truth because by doing that we honor ourselves or even about speaking the truth because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s about speaking the truth because the consequences of not speaking it can be so much worse.

As strange as it sounds to say that when 12 people died today as a result of the truths they spoke,  I’m inclined to believe they’d agree with me.

#JeSuisCharlie

And that’s the truth.