Radical Love Project

Telling the Truth

I want to talk about telling the truth. About the nagging feeling of really needing to speak what’s on your mind, or tell somebody off. I want to talk about whether truth is always a good idea.


I take the idea that God is love very seriously. I have this idea that we have God-sensors — that love draws us, like truth and beauty do. [When I say “God is love” I’m actually equating love with truth or beauty, so it’s all one: truth/beauty/love. That’s my story, for now. Go with it for a minute?]

So anyway, I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about whether un-truth is really in keeping with my values. Do I have to tell white lies? Do I have to compromise, or can I really base my life on love(/truth/beauty) as I see it?

Another assumption I live by: if God is real, I don’t have to compromise. Or maybe my not compromising lets God be real? That stuff is all fuzzy, but (leaving aside emergency situations for now) I’m thinking that in my intention to relax into a life of love & grace, I want to tell the truth.

I figure that means I’m going to have to look at the places where truth looks like it’s in conflict with beauty. Or with love.

Truth vs. Beauty

Since my heart was telling me that there is beauty in truth, and vice versa, I thought I’d try always telling the truth. I found myself wanting to say things like “Wow, you are a jerk,” and “Well, that was stupid.”

I guess that the Radical Honesty guy encourages that kind of honesty. But it didn’t work for me, because saying those things didn’t satisfy the original intention, which was to reach toward beauty, toward love. A disconnect was forming in my mind.

Fast forward several years… the path has led me through some interesting twists, but mostly, it’s led me to learn something about empathy, which makes a huge difference. It’s also led me to a new way of seeing my judgment(*), and suddenly, saying “you are a jerk” doesn’t look so much like telling the truth.

There are some truths I’m pretty clear about in the outside world, because I can see them. I’m comfortable “telling the truth” by saying “that’s a tree.” I might be wrong, if it’s off in the distance, and somebody might help me improve on it, but it’s an attempt at telling the truth I’m happy with.

But those kinds of truths are pretty easy to agree on. They aren’t controversial. (If you’re into NVC you might call these “observations”.)

When I tell myself I’m “telling the truth” and it creates pain or quarrels, though, that’s when I have to wonder if I’m labeling the outside world to avoid looking at something inside me.

“you are” versus “i am”

When I find myself saying “you are a jerk” (and I still have that tendency), I sense a disconnect with the love/truth/beauty I value so much. (Or if I don’t sense it right off, I might get help from someone’s body language, yelling, or violence. When I get punched in the face, I have an opportunity to sense the disconnect!)

I figure I must be missing something. I look deeper.

What I usually end up finding is what Marshall Rosenberg has called “a tragic expression of an unmet need.” That is, “you are a jerk” actually points to some pain I’m carrying. Like maybe “I’m scared when you say that, because I have this idea you don’t care about me, that I can’t trust you to help me, and I’ve really been hoping for help.” Or it might mean something else, but whatever it is will point to some very human longing for a treasure that isn’t controversial at all. Even the person I thought was a jerk can agree that it’s “the truth”.

When I can do that, I think truth & beauty & love are lined back up in my heart. I think I’m living according to my values and intentions.

* This labeling of the outside world (of “you” as “jerk” or “that” as “stupid”) is what I call judgment. More about that here: Judgment and Discernment. The more my habits of judgment fall away, the more serenity & joy I experience. Not only that, but the times when I’m experiencing anything but serenity & joy, I notice I’m also experiencing judgment, and mistaking it for truth.

Posted by Angela under feature
Tuesday, July 27, 2010


  1. Cassie says:

    Hi, Angela. 🙂
    I like your post. Actually, I’ve liked a lot of your posts. 🙂 But, anyway…
    When you wrote “avoid looking at something inside me” I tensed up, because I thought you were going to write the way that other people do. “You think he’s a jerk because you are really the jerk.” That’s what some people think, and I was afraid you were going there. I judged your post from my own pain of not being good enough. Yet, you didn’t meet my judgments, instead you wrote from a compassionate point of view. “You call them a jerk because you are hurting inside. Jerk is just a label, not a truth.” You didn’t tell me to beat myself up instead of them. You didn’t tell me that if I see people as jerks there must be something bad about me. Thank you. I needed that empathy. I see you as someone who understands love. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on truth/beauty/love. 🙂
    Love doesn’t judge… and you know that. 🙂


  2. John says:

    My website explores the nine heavenly characteristics of Abundance, Joy, Wisdom, Beauty, Love, Truth, Peace, Justice and Freedom. Love is at the Center with Beauty and Truth on the immediate Left and Right. So, I resonate with your journey.

    love, john + http://www.abundancetrek.com + “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.” — Teilhard de Chardin

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  1. […] wrote a post not too long ago about telling the truth. Tl;dr: What I usually end up finding is what Marshall Rosenberg has called “a tragic expression […]

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