Shoot with the Truth

When my kids were younger, especially teen-agers, I allowed and even encouraged them to use me as their go-to excuse. Whether it was turning down an invitation, avoiding dangerous activity, or simply taking a break from a friend, I was there to take the blame. “My mom won’t let me, my mom made plans, my mom will kill me if she finds out”. But by early adulthood, “my-mom” excuses don’t fly and it was time to handle those uncomfortable, undesirable, and anxiety-producing situations by themselves. It was then I gave my kids the advice I try to heed myself: Shoot with the truth. Don’t lie.

I’m a ‘knee-jerk yes’ person, quickly agreeing to ideas, outings and activities of all stripes. I’m also a homebody who prefers quiet evenings and comfy pants. In my younger days, this dichotomy along with limited funds, created awkward situations where I had accepted an invitation but when the time arrived, I didn’t want or couldn’t afford to attend. I found myself making excuses, telling white lies, or fabricating the truth. It made me cranky and disappointed in myself. I put an end to it.

Initially, telling the truth felt complicated because of my uncomfortableness in dealing with problematic situations or the potential negative reaction of the other party. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like to let people down. I thought telling a white lie or embellishing the truth would save people’s feelings and ease my conscience. And while I rarely got caught in my fabrications, I felt my credibility slipping away from myself. I had to remember the lies, and that was taxing and might lead to more lies. Too many complications and potential for drama. It was time to break the bad habit.

I worked at being discerning in accepting invitations and I would shoot with the truth if a conflict or needed change arose. I took a deep breath and I kept it simple: I’m strapped for cash and can’t afford an evening out, I’m sorry I agreed earlier to attend but I wouldn’t be good company today, or a similar statement of truth. And I reminded myself I was not on trial or on The Jerry Springer show. I didn’t have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, nor did I have to over-share embarrassing myself or anyone else. The fewer words the better. If an apology needed to be made, I made it, hoped it would be accepted and moved on. Quickly, I found the truth was an easier and happier habit.

And over time I applied this honest directness to other uncomfortable and difficult situations. Whether it was giving feedback, turning down requests, or helping someone grieve, I wanted to be straightforward and plain-spoken. If I didn’t mean it, I didn’t say it – no glossing, no embellishing, no white lies. I learned to accept silence in conversation and not to fill it with meaningless words. This was especially hard for me. I’m chatty. But with practice, I improved. And I reminded myself that being truthful doesn’t equate to being blunt or harsh. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I want my words to be heard, to be remembered, and hopefully to be wise.

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2 Responses to Shoot with the Truth

  1. Mary M Hendriksen says:

    What a truly excellent post, Aggie! Much to learn here . . yes, we’ve all been in the situation of weaving a very tangled web of deceit when trying to protect another’s feelings . . .honestly is certainly the best policy. A sidebar note, though: I’ve observed myself the past few months how doing one’s duty in some situations – and certainly not wanting to — is, perhaps, the essence of adulthood and how the world keeps going ’round. Mary

    • aggiemannix says:

      Good point, Mary. I don’t mean to equate shooting with the truth to doing what we always want to do. Obligations and duties(not mere social engagements), especially to job and family, once accepted shouldn’t be avoided because it is uncomfortable or you’ve changed your mind. But I do find understanding the depth of an obligation, before accepting it, helps in fulfilling it.

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