Speaking Truth in the Face of Power
Everyone I know wants to speak truth, but speaking truth can be a challenge.
We are not trying to lie or obscure the truths we know. None of us want to be confusing or hide our truth behind layers of deception. It is a challenge, though, for us to recognize the truth and put it into words.
Many of us seek the truth and become trapped in its layers of meaning. Just when we think we have a hold on something significant we feel it escape our grasp and fly away.
If truth is so important, so meaningful, why is it so elusive? How can it be so difficult to measure and explain?
Speaking truth can be challenging whether or not we are speaking in the face of power. We may be intimidated by truth itself, or afraid of how other people will respond to our truth. Truth is a big thing and encompasses a lot of different aspects.
Some of us become confused or uncertain about what actually is true.
Speaking truth in the face of power can be difficult no matter how we see the truth. We may want to be persuasive and win people over to understand truth the same ways we do. Some of us are concerned people with power will not respond well when we speak our truth.
We live in a time when some people with power appear not to have a particularly high regard for truth. Speaking truth in the face of power might open us to criticism or verbal abuse. People may think less of us or feel we are being obstructionist or naive.
Sometimes speaking truth in the face of power can lead to physical violence.
Is speaking truth in the face of power necessarily a good idea?
Discerning and Speaking Truth in the Face of Power
I believe in the value of speaking truth in the face of power.
We need to remember how people in power react to the truth we speak is their responsibility. Our speaking is not about being effective or making a difference in the world. The value of speaking truth is in the truth we share.
It is not our responsibility to shock or draw attention to ourselves. We speak truth because it is true.
Our first step in speaking truth is discerning what is true.
Some of us find truth through our emotions, others through our experiences, others through analysis. It can be helpful to remember we each have our own ways of discerning truth. Speaking truth in the face of power relies on how another person discerns truth as much as how we do.
Discerning truth is immediate for some of us. We are exposed to an idea and we know it is true as soon as we hear it. Other people need to spend some time with ideas before they know what is true for them.
Truth is a vast, complex concept. None of us is able to speak all truth at any time. We select the pieces of truth we consider and contemplate, and the pieces we put into words.
Speaking truth in the face of power is not about constructing the most beautiful arguments we can make. The most essential aspect of truth is it is true. We need to be honest, authentic, and direct when we speak the truth.
What do we know is true? How do we put it into words?
Understanding what we believe to be true is essential to appreciating the risks and rewards of speaking truth. We are working our way toward the truth.
Monastic Life and Speaking Truth in the Face of Power
The history of monastic life is filled with examples of monks speaking truth in the face of power.
One of the truths monk have shown me about speaking truth is reflected in how they approach their opportunities. It is rare for monks to interject themselves into conflict situations unless they are invited.
Monastic life teaches people the value if stillness, gentle words, and gentle actions. Monks are not superheroes who swoop in to resolve every situation. They appreciate the significance of listening, of patience, and of taking time.
A monastic approach to speaking truth in the face of power is not about being aggressive. It is more about demonstrating the value of listening and being heard. Each person has an opportunity to speak their truth.
Speaking truth in the face of power is not about competition and confrontation. We are lighting candles in the dark to help us find our way into the truth.
Monastic life is about speaking truth in the face of power whether or not anyone else hears us. We light candles in the darkness as we as we explore and discover and share the truth.
Speaking Truth in the Face of Power in Our Lives
We live in a time when our speaking truth in the face of power is an intimate relationship. It is no longer enough for us to shout what we believe to be true from a distance, in person or through social media.
Our lives are about listening and exploring truths around us and within us, and sharing them with others. We are not wrapped up in defending what we hold to be true or in overcoming people who are powerful. As tempting as it might be at times, we are not focused on gaining more power for ourselves.
We live our lives somewhere in the balance of truth and power. It can be easy for us to commit ourselves before we know what is true and set out to gain power.
Speaking truth in the face of power is deeper than merely changing minds or changing hearts.
The truths we speak in the face of power are complex and full of life.
How are we speaking truth in the face of power today?
When will we be speaking truth in the face of power this week?
[Image by spcbrass]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.