I was walking with a friend through a Berkeley park. Park walking is a good time for telling the truth. There is, after all, sooooo much to talk about. I asked how a mutual acquaintance, Renee, was doing and, all of a sudden, it was on.
“She’s going out with Jennifer’s husband,” said my friend. I was stunned. I literally stopped in mid-stride, my leg in the air.
“What?” I asked.
“Everybody knows it.”
Well, I didn’t know it; from everything I knew about the woman, it did not ring true. There was absolutely nothing to back it up. I was very annoyed.
“That’s not my experience of Renee,” I said coldly. The way I answered surprised us both. We looked at each other. “She does not poach other women’s husbands or boyfriends, ” I said. And with that, I turned and walked away.
When we were children, we were taught that “the truth will set you free.”
Truth-telling is a healing experience. Hearing the truth is equally valuable. Truth can heal a broken heart, derail the train to infidelity, and stop gossip in its tracks. I’m betting that truth can even prevent wars. There is this moment of relief when the truth is stated out loud, a quietness in the heart. A person can “let go” in its presence.
Truth is absolute. For instance, everyone that is born into a physical body will die a physical death. That is the truth. It levels the human playing field, makes all people equal, and makes the political fear mongering and religious posturing that we see today even more ridiculous.
Here’s another truth: fear and love cannot exist within the heart at the same time. If, in any moment, the heart is filled with fear and anxiety, there will be no room for the tenderness of love.
I remember the only private conversation I ever had with my paternal grandfather. It was the last time I saw him, and I was around 19 or 20. We were in the sitting room of his home in South Carolina. I was a tempestuous young woman, one who always questioned things in a way that seemed to easily irritate adults around me.
So I was experiencing a bit of fear as Granddaddy leaned back in his rocker. He was elegant and dignified, and the filtered sunlight at his back outlined his tall, muscular frame. He looked like an African chieftain or a god, and the moment seemed like a rite of passage somehow. But I did not ask any questions that day. I listened. As we sat together, just Granddaddy and me, he would talk, then take long pauses and sips of lemonade.
He talked about being a Black parent in the south during the time of struggle, and how he had to be hard on his children to keep them alive. He also talked about how rebellious my father was. He took a sip of his lemonade; I gulped mine–silently I hoped.
“You do things as a parent to protect your children, and at the time, the children think you’re being mean to them.” He took another long sip. I sipped from my own glass. (Truth: there is nothing as refreshing and comforting as homemade lemonade in the southern heat.)
I recognized my own rebellious tendencies, and it is true that I felt as if people were hard on me. I have never been an advocate of the status quo, and I experienced great trouble in expressing my thoughts evenly to others. My ideas sounded rebellious, but truthfully, I just saw the world a different way–I still do sometimes.
“Your daddy always wanted to try new things,” Granddaddy said, and I was grateful that he kept the focus on my father. I felt like he saw in me the same exploratory quality, and that he had decided this was a good thing. I felt like he was trying to make it easy for me somehow.
“Sometimes, as a parent, you just learn not to worry. You may not like the decisions your children make, but you know it will come out right. I’m real proud of your daddy. I am glad that he became who he became.”
Granddaddy took another pause and as he did that, I felt peace. I experienced that moment of relief, that all engulfing stillness that comes with the truth. That day, fear was pushed out of my heart and love came in to take its place. I could let go of worry because, at least for the moment, I knew I had his unconditional love. He had shared the truth with me.
And that’s when I came to this conclusion: Absolute truth is love, and love will set us free.