The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which literally means to “un-hide” or “hiding nothing.” When was the last time you yourself were absolutely truthful in the presence of someone else? When was the last time you candidly chose to not hide something from within you?
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde
The number one coaching rule: Don’t trust me (the coach). Does that sound backwards? Why, you ask, should I not trust my coach? Because the person you should trust first and always is YOU. Trust deep within you that what you seek in life and spirit and wisdom is what makes up your truth and carries you through into everything you do.
When you enlist a life coach to help get you up and over and through the forest of your life you will be asked some really tough, hard to answer, hard to face questions AND you will be held accountable for the answers that you give and for the actions you take toward the outcome you hope to achieve. Think you are ready for a life coach? Think again and again and again because a life coach will expose your vulnerabilities and will challenge your courage. A life coach will ask for YOUR TRUTH and if you are not prepared to face your truth, if you think you need to hide behind a mask of perfection or arrogance or half-truths then you are not ready. Friends, spouses, community leaders, teachers, etc. all ask you for your truth. How honest have you been? How vulnerable have you allowed yourself to be?
In her amazing book, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown talks about vulnerability at length and before you are through chapter two you know for sure that vulnerability is truth. “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” (pg. 37 DG).
Examples of how vulnerability feels range from “It feels like taking off the mask and hoping the real me isn’t too disappointing” to “You are half way across a tightrope, and moving forward and going back are both just as scary” to “Letting go of control” to the ultimate analogy, “Vulnerability is like being naked onstage hoping for applause rather than laughter.”
What is the truth of your vulnerability? Do you know where your weak spots are? Are you courageous enough to admit to those weak spots, out loud, in front of a crowd, metaphorically naked?
My husband and I have been staring vulnerability and truth in the face this year and it has been a very, very tough time. The kids are getting older and starting to spread their wings so our time together as a couple has been more than we have ever been used to. Having so much time together has put us in a position of talking more, seeing each other in different ways and not always liking what we see. We never took the time to invest in the bank of our relationship while raising our children. We thought that the kids were the number one responsibility and that we came second to their needs. I believe this is the point in the relationship where a lot of couples look at each other and say, “Who are you?”
Sure it would be easy to just get busy with outside things and avoid alone time with each other especially when we seem to feel like such strangers with each other but we are choosing to face this hard time and speak our truth instead of hiding behind the mask of busyness and work. If ever I thought that in my life I have always been an honest, truth telling person I am here to tell you that there is no vulnerability and truth like what you experience when you choose to be open and honest about yourself and your relationship with your spouse.
“People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it is served up.” –George R.R. Martin
It’s been a few months of this kind of routine, of coming together and talking and being honest about where we each are at in our lives and on our own life road. Our agenda is to see if indeed we are meant to stay together or have we exhausted our purpose together? There have been tears on both parts and there have been times when we needed to separate away from one another for a bit just to breathe and get our bearings but we seem to manage to come back together and pick up where we left off. It feels like we are breaking each other open like an egg and pouring out from the comfort of the shell and exposing ourselves to the elements. It has been scary and tender and in a way kind of beautiful because we are seeing each other in a new light.
I have to say that I have never felt more in control of my life than I do right now in being as truthful and vulnerable as I’ve been with my husband lately. There is some kind of magic in all that vulnerability and honesty and it has kind of set me free. My spirit has power now that it never had before and my soul feels lighter and more spiritual. If we stay together or go our separate ways we will each be stronger, brighter, shinier and more self-aware than ever before.
“I think that we are like stars. Something happens to burst us open; but when we burst open and think we are dying; we are actually turning into a supernova. And then when we look at ourselves again, we see that we are suddenly more beautiful than we ever were before.” –C. Joybell C.
I won’t lie and say that coming together and holding each other accountable for our own truth is easy. Just as in coaching we try not to avoid or pretend a truth, whether in a relationship context or a parent context or a personal context. We do this by staying accountable and keeping each other focused on the thing we want to achieve. We have faith that whatever the outcome we did all we could to discover our truth.
It isn’t easy at all and as we go through each conversation we find ourselves that much deeper into a story started long ago but the point is that things can’t get better if we don’t start somewhere. Say the first word, write the first thought or question, or express the first feeling. Nothing can get better if the status quo stays the status quo.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway
Truth and vulnerability summon courage to make a stand. Opportunity exists in the triad. If we stay shy and self-preserved or self-protective then anything that might have been, good or bad or better than imagined, stays locked away forever. The saying that “the truth shall set you free” is really quite remarkable when you actually experience it. The key, in my humble opinion, is that you have to trust to some great degree the person you are telling your truth to. You have to have inner courage to say what is real and what you need and what you want out of life. You have to be willing to expose your inner self to questions and comments and opinions but not be swayed by these things. Tough, tough, tough to do.
Dr. Brown says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
So how do we cultivate the triad: Truth, Vulnerability and Courage?
Show up fully loaded: Exist in a space that is solely devoted to another person. Leave your ego at the door and don’t allow it to come in, even when it starts pounding and demanding.
Stay engaged: The easiest thing to do would be to let go. Let go of the relationship, let go of the trying, and/or let go of listening. The triad asks you to stay engaged. Don’t let go, don’t give up until you have spoken and listened and experienced every truth, vulnerability and act of courage in the face of the adversity.
Enlist your tribe: There is no glory in going through life alone. We need each other. We were designed that way. How ironic that we try to avoid being open and vulnerable and truthful to the very people we need, whether in the short term or the long haul. “We need support. We need folks who will let us try on new ways of being without judging us. We need a hand to pull us up off the ground when we get kicked down in the arena” says Dr. Brown.
Whether you choose the people for your tribe to be family, certain friends, coaches, therapists, or teachers it doesn’t matter just so long as you have that go to person for that all important moment when you realize you NEED help and encouragement to get back up and go again.
Make peace with the rules of living a wholehearted life: If you are truly, truthfully living a full and engaged life then there will always be vulnerable moments, weak moments, and moments where courage needs to be summoned. If you opt out of the things that scare you, push you, test you, challenge you, engage you out of your comfort zone then you are only living a half-life. Even in those sheltered life experiences you set up so perfectly for yourself you will face vulnerability and truth.
Rule: If you are alive you are vulnerable. End of story. The band Rush says so well in their song “Freewill”, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Words like scared, judgmental, controlling, perfecting, unwilling and angry are all words you need to face the truth about. LIVE OUT LOUD. It is so freeing.
Call to Action
Ask and answer for yourself:
What happens inside of me when I feel vulnerable or exposed?
What truth am I afraid to face?
What truth am I believing that could be looked at from a new perspective?
How do I self-protect when I feel vulnerable?
When do I think it is safe to take any emotional risks?
What circumstances challenge me toward inner courage even though I am scared to death?