Growing up, we always had a saying in our house: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Now for most of my life, I simply believed that was a way that truth could be covered up and whatever evil was beneath the surface could be denied or kept unknown by a charismatic storyteller.
I admit to fury about this saying!
There were times in my life when I did seek to say what was going on and usually my version of the story was met with comments about my over- active imagination. That was the good version. The worse was when my anger after sharing a story was interpreted as ‘too much’ and I was given some type of medication to calm me down.
Maybe I did start to believe a good story was better than the truth – or at least created less pain and misunderstanding.
These days the saying is generally a good bridge in our family gatherings. However, the new status has come after many years of working to try to understand each other’s vastly different versions of reality about the past. The saying is no longer meant to shut anyone down. I do think it might be a signal to say we may be stepping into tricky territory and give each other a head’s up.
Our differences have never been reconciled. But, now that we are adults and have been able to find ways to each feel heard and seen for whatever reality we were living growing up, we can have a relationship.
I really appreciate that about my family. We live the agree to disagree about some things and find ways to appreciate and value other aspects of who we each are now.
That may just be because of the saying – Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Only these days I prefer to retranslate. I think the saying would be best expressed as; Never let a truth get in the way of deeply listening to someone’s else’s story”
That really is the lesson.
Too often, our individual ‘truths’ are so fixed that we don’t really listen to a different truth. Especially when that other storyline may make us look poorly, guilty, cruel or unkind.
However, I firmly believe that most of the time people really don’t need to be told their version of reality is ‘the truth’. Instead, they are looking for someone to deeply listens and step into their reality, consider what that might be like and acknowledges their feelings. When this occurs healing happens. Over and over, I see people get unstuck from their old stories and look at the choices they made and move forward in these scenarios.
Truth is I’ve seen people get their stories validated – by courtrooms and judges – only to see that person continue to struggle with the old story. Unable to reframe, rewrite or redefine the outcome.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying some actions don’t warrant judgement. But I am saying that alone isn’t going to be what supports the ‘victim’ in moving forward.
What will? – never letting a or one truth get in the way of deeply listening to another person’s story!
Truth is relative. Yes, we need to find our truth – but I just don’t think we need to let that get in the way of listening to someone else’s.
We can disagree. We can not like it. We may even decide that because of that person’s story we aren’t interested in a deeper relationship.
But I don’t think finding the one truth will work.
Listening and considering – that is a powerful path for contact and possibility and influence.
These days with all the stories coming out about men’s abuse of power and sexual harassment of women, I think we’d be better served if we did not get caught up in focusing on what did or did not happen. Frankly I think the people speaking up need to be heard.
Our job is to listen. What is the impact of these stories?
I am speaking to the men out there getting accused. Listen! Consider! Respond! From a place of understanding someone else‘s truth, instead of right versus wrong. Listen to the impact, the pain, the experience and a perspective other than your own. Don’t just deny or apologize and move on. Be influenced now.
I think that is how something different can happen.
When we simply go to right or wrong, the feeling and the impact can so easily get lost. Listening and considering the impact of our actions, words or deeds on another – even if that wasn’t our intent or perceived outcome. That is what will help heal and bridge our differences.
I know it did in my family and I have witnessed it over and over in couples, on teams and in families. I think it can happen out in the world as well.
Now that is my truth – and I won’t let it get in the way of hearing your truth (story).