I stopped arguing a long time ago about who is right and who is wrong. I’m terrible in those kinds of disputes because I can often see both sides, and because I usually don’t care that much if someone else sees things differently than I do. Fortunately, I am good at avoiding conversations with people who fall on the opposite side of the issues that are deeply important to me. It feels disrespectful to my beliefs to even give the opposing view that much attention. Still, I understand that what feels true to some people does not necessarily feel true to me.
This is a different idea about truth than the one I grew up with. As a kid, I had the distinct idea that something was either true or not true. This seemed to be the case with dates and facts and other things we learned in school. In my family, the truth was this: If you love me, we don't disagree and we never argue openly (just passive aggressively). It was a long time before I learned about personal perceptions of the truth and the ways in which these might influence our relationships and how we see the world in general. I also learned the value of telling the truth about myself. I realized that I couldn’t let people totally decide their own truth about me, nor could I expect them to.
The truth is really the best thing we have between us.
None of this means that I took up lying or that I did whatever I wanted to in the name of my own personal truth. What it does mean is that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to realize what telling the truth really means for me. To start with, it means doing the work to know and understand who I really am—warts and all. It also means owning that. So, I have to be who I am, wherever I am. This means that, where appropriate, I try to share that truth with the people in my life. It’s my way of being an emotionally responsible grown-up.
It isn't easy and it's rarely fun. But if I can step into the world with my own truth as a given, it allows other people to do the same thing. If we're all telling the truth, we can stop pretending. We can realize that our own truth isn't as scary or loathsome as might have once thought, and we can love each other deeply for being willing to be who we are, despite what someone once told us about "people like us."
It probably sounds like romanticizing, but I don’t think I’ve felt more powerful than when I realized that my most important truth is just being who I am. Whether it was when I came out, or when I first told a therapist about how hard it was to grow up in my family, or when I entered into a relationship with Jodi based entirely on the truth, it has ultimately been a profound relief every time. When I’m scared, when I’m proud, when I’m angry … just feeling it and saying it has saved me in so many ways.
This also means that hearing someone else’s truth is part of every relationship that means something to me. And it’s not always easy. It doesn’t mean agreeing or seeing it the same way, but it means acknowledging the telling and the feeling and not trying to talk someone out of it. The truth is really the best thing we have between us. It isn’t easy, but it makes all the difference.