Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

September 30, 2009

The Truth (not Truthiness) Will Set You Free

I'll say it again: I love Stephen Colbert. One of the words that his television persona has coined is "truthiness," as in, "The truthiness will set you free." Although this idea's absurdity is only compounded by Colbert's delivery of the term, I've been thinking about how hard it is to speak the truth with charity.

This week I had to hand back papers to my students. It was their first go around writing a philosophical paper, and some of the girls just could not for the life of them construct a sentence, let alone present an analytical argument that involved thoughts, not feelings. I was honest with them about their strengths and weaknesses, but I would not compromise on their grades despite the waterworks that were turned on (more like the pipes that just burst!). Though the girls can re-write their papers with the help of my suggestions, this was the first time, or so it seemed, that many had experienced a teacher showing them that could not do something on the first try, and that they actually needed to work to learn something. It is hard to be up there with 18-year-old girls, who I usually have in the palm of my hand during my lectures, looking up at me with disbelief (and dislike!). I know in the long run that standing my ground is going to serve them better. It's hard to tell the truth when you know that you will not be met with appreciation (at least not immediately).

I've also had to be honest in the past year with a few friends which has put me in sticky situations: one friend knows the truth that she is called to though she is living a life adverse to it; another whose relationship is really very unhealthy; a third who speaks down to me and berates me when I try to help her. In each of these situations, though different, I try to act as a mirror for them when they ask me for advice or want me to comment on their lives; I try not to speak with judgment, nor to pass it, but rather to hold up a mirror for them to see themselves in. So far, that has been a difficult task, and for the most part, my telling of the truth has not been met with gratitude. In fact, I have lost two of these friendships in the process. It is hard for me to live out the Gospel imperative to speak the truth in charity. Today if one speaks this truth, even with love, he or she is considered judgmental. I wish, somehow, we could separate these two things, as they do not have to go together. I wish it weren't so hard to tell the truth. Perhaps my friends don't want to hear it, or maybe they have cut me out because they did hear it.

In any event, pray for me that I, too, know this Truth and am set free from my own need for approval. Pray that I can perfect pure love for others.

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