(mirrored from here)
Today, I’ve been working on tying together how a situation I’ve been observing (for many months now, actually…but more acutely over the past few days) can be connected to my own work. The question is one of honesty, and of the unknown. In different ways each…but the basic premise of each is roughly about the same.
In the situation I’ve been observing (and have been honored to be a sounding board for one of the parties involved), I have noted casually the old saying about doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. The situation is one that has an established routine that has created something of a rut in communication, and that has fostered a sort of broken record pattern of lather-rinse-repeat sort. Déjà vu…all over again. Of course, I’m a passive observer in the aforementioned situation, as is my partner. We discuss the present state of affairs (me, admittedly, with a bit more frustration), and mostly agree that unless some sort of shift occurs nothing will change. Non-action is also a choice.
However, today something surfaced that took me mildly by surprise, and I simply tilted my head with a kind of quizzical look ~
~ because I’m just not quite sure how to respond. Without going into detail, the situation is between a friend and her partner. There has been a history of “disagreements” that result in both parties getting frustrated — and part of the problem is that my friend and her partner are two very different people with very different approaches to discussion. My friend is a very kind person…very sensitive to others’ feelings…and tends to soften her words to minimize impact. After months of observing this, I finally asked why? I understand not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings and I understand self-protective conflict avoidance. Of course I do. But when avoiding said conflict and thinking of others’ feelings results in not being completely honest, then my next question is why? Who does that help? At the same time, I was unsure about asking that question, because I didn’t want my friend to feel that I was minimizing her sensitivity or her gentle concern for others (because I find those to be very positive traits); I asked because I can see (with frustration) how deprivation of self in the face of those positive traits is potentially damaging to self, as well as to the relationship, when complete honesty is couched in favor of euphemism and false diplomacy (in the name of conflict avoidance and others’ feelings).
My friend’s answer was that she is afraid. Afraid her partner might leave. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid to say “fuck you” because of uncertainty that her partner might walk out because she said “fuck you”…even if that was the true feeling of that moment.
See, for the same number of months I’ve been watching my friend work to be less of a doormat, I’ve been working on being kinder to myself and to others. The idea of saying “fuck you” or “fuck off” in the context of a moment of real-life disagreement that has gone beyond what is acceptable or beyond my personal boundaries is something that I have never really thought twice about. I’ve never had any problem with telling anyone to go fuck themselves if they crossed certain lines with me…and I’ve never really given a flying monkey shit if they liked that or not. Honestly, I still don’t. But I am working on being kinder and gentler…and working on self-improvement in such a way that I don’t react like that unless it’s actually called for (and sometimes, that is the only remaining response).
I have a difficult time watching my friend, who is a very kind and gentle person, denying that truth -and in this context, that response is more than appropriate- out of fear that her partner might leave because of inability to handle that level of complete and forthright honesty. The concept is just entirely foreign to me. I understand fear and insecurity…goodness knows I do…but I feel like if someone is so petty and small that they can’t handle the truth in that moment, then I don’t need them in my life. By the same token, I also have to be strong enough to not be hypocritical…I have to be able to handle when the people in my life speak forthrightly and honestly with me. It’s a two-way street. And much credit to René on this count, because I’mnot easy to live with…and my honesty is often a little too blunt and harsh (like I said, I’m working on it)…but that wonderful partner of mine has got some serious brass and knows how to dish it right back to me. Therein is the balance…the allowance for full honesty and trust results in both of us being exactly who we are without equivocation, which in turn allows us both to be gentler with each other, because we both know we can handle each other’s less-than-gentle parts.
So how, you might be wondering, is this topic connected with my work? My work, as I’ve shared here before, is in sex education. In our present political climate, sex education in public schools is a source of extremely heated debate. Thirty out of fifty states accept Title V funding for sex education in their public schools, which means in order to qualify for those funds, those schools must present abstinence-based or abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) sex education. I’ve written extensively about this topic (and will be making the announcement whenever my bloody dissertation gets published), so I’m not going to rehash all of it here. However, the bottom line is that AOUM and abstinence-based education is incomplete, lacking in complete honesty…and the results are disastrous. In states that accept Title V funding for sex ed, there has been a rise in unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission across the teen populations…which is the exact opposite result of the desired goals of reduction. That is what happens when matters of importance are not presented completely, authentically, honestly. And why? Because parents are afraid that if their kids get the complete truth they might… what? Have sex? Well, they’re having sex anyway, which shows in the increasing numbers of unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission rates…but because those kids are not getting the facts in their entirety (you know, sins of omission or something along that vein), they’re having sex without using protection.
And the entire notion of AOUM is fear-based and fear-driven. Just as is the case withmost situations where people try to couch the truth for fear of some unknownsomething. Couching messages in softer language or not being completely honest…especially to the people we care about the most deeply — our partners and our children — often has negative outcomes. Trust is also a factor. When we trust the people we care about the very most to be able to handle complete honesty, when we give them credit for being able to be able to “strap on the brass,” so to speak, then the truth becomes nothing to fear.
Most of our question marks get eventual answers with closing punctuation. Often, we navigate through life as unknown waters that are potentially treacherous. At the same time, we can’t hide from life, or our truth…life doesn’t stop just because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. None of us is promised tomorrow…but if we trust that we’ll probably be here to see it, then it’s easier to face it completely honestly and not dwell on the “what ifs.” Plan for tomorrow, despite the unknown…and live life as if tomorrow may never come. Live in authenticity…and without shame or regret.
With that, I hope you have a wonderful week!