About the Truth

Nov 23, 2010 by

About the Truth

I tend to think of myself as someone who speaks my mind fairy easily. So I’ve been quite surprised by my recent foray into a whole new realm of truth-telling (not as opposed to lying, which I haven’t done in years, but as opposed to keeping quiet about how I feel), because it’s shown me that I’m not nearly as good at it as I thought.

Not everyone is pleased by hearing my truth. I guess there’s no such thing as a world where you can say what you mean and enjoy everyone’s approval. And that, I think, is the real bottom line on speaking up. I guess it just boils down to this one key question: How much do you care what others think of you? More than I thought, I guess, but I’m doing it anyway. Because once you pull the covers off a pattern like that, there’s just no going home again.

Though it’s not the most dramatic recent example, today two people, two total strangers, emailed me for the first time ever and asked me to mail them a free book. One was in Russia, the other in Brazil. Ever mailed anything to Russia or Brazil? It’s not cheap.

I did something I almost never do in this situation. I said, with regrets, that I couldn’t.

Maybe I’m still weighed down with the burden of being that “Pay It Forward person.” She has to be nice, right? But Paying It Forward is about spontaneously offering favors, not needing to say yes when someone asks too much of you. And also, it’s about Kindness rather than niceness. There’s a difference. Kindness is spontaneous and real. Niceness just mostly wants to be liked.

Many years ago, when I lived in L.A., there was a little mom and pop store on the corner. Behind the register was a hand-done sign. Here’s what it said:

You ask for credit, I say no, you get mad.

I give you credit, you don’t pay, I get mad.

Better you get mad.

Life is full of moments when two people’s needs are in conflict. Someone is going to be unhappy. If I speak up, it will be the other person. If I don’t, it will be me.

I guess I’m wondering why I spent all those years choosing me.

Yeah, I know, this is not about writing. Just a musing about life. I went back and forth a lot about whether I should blog it. The reason I did is because I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who struggles with this stuff.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s most recent book is Jumpstart the World
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3 Comments

  1. “Kindness is spontaneous and real. Niceness just mostly wants to be liked.”

    What a great quote! I think this is very apropos as we zoom into holiday season. So much of the holiday nonsense is about repressing your feelings and “making nice” while the louder, more selfish and drunker ride roughshod over the rest. “You know how uncle Bill is…”

    Usually there’s no point in confronting Uncle Bill, because he’s just itching for a fight that will put him even more firmly in the limelight, but sometimes avoiding the holiday altogether (being “selfish”) is the best solution of all.

    I’m kind of appalled that strangers would ask you to ship them free books. Do they think writers live at the North Pole and can dispatch gifts from reindeer-powered delivery devices?

  2. k

    Yes. I understand that struggle completely. Being honest with yourself is the hardest kind of truth. Speaking it out-loud can be life changing 🙂

  3. Paula O'Sullivan

    Hi Catherine,

    Yes you’re not the only one who struggles with these conflicts and I spent most of my life choosing me too ! However in the past year I shifted the balance. Now, with a lot of respect of course, I don’t worry too much about what others think, as I feel it is of utmost importance that we are firstly true to ourselves, before we can be true to others, otherwise, we are living a big lie, I believe.

    Thanks for this blog, it got me thinking, and I love to think ! Lol

    Blessings of love and light to you,
    Paula