Sunday, September 22, 2002

Honor Me With the Truth: A Manifesto

When I was a young teen, probably twelve or thirteen, my mother told me something that I've never forgotten. I think she said that her mother had told her the same thing when she was that age too.

"When I met your father, and we became serious about each other, I said to him that if he ever raised a hand to me in violence that I would leave, and he would never see me again. It wouldn't matter how much I loved him, or how much he said he was sorry, or how long we had been together, I would leave and he would never see me again in his life."

This story made a huge impression on me, and I adopted this tradition myself. Every man with whom I've ever been seriously involved has heard me say this to him. And I have always meant every word of it. (I didn't believe or expect that any of them would ever exert physical violence in our relationship ~ and they knew that ~ and none of them ever did. Nor were they offended that I said this to them.)

To that non-negotiable, I plan to add this further request: Honor me with the truth.

"You can show me respect and love by always telling me what you perceive to be the case, so that I may make my choices with as much information as possible. Trust me to use good judgment with the truth that you impart to me. Don't protect me from reality; don't shave the truth to smooth over a situation, or to spare my feelings or yours. If I cannot trust you to trust me with your candor, then I cannot trust you at all. I, in turn, will do the same for you: I will tell you my truth as I see it, and I will work with you to try and understand the way things are, both in the world and between us. I will not hide the reality that may cast me in a less than glamorous light, and I will not try to persuade you that things are other than they are. You may trust that what I say is not a dim shadow of what I think is true, but as close as I can get to it.

I believe that reality is our friend, and that the truth will set us free. I believe we can be honest without ever being cruel. Let's be brave and adventurous, kind and frank with one another, so that we may grow together rather than apart."

Perhaps these are things that should go without saying. But saying them gives them power, puts them on the record, and provides a touchstone of intention to return to in difficult times.

Cross-posted to both2and: beyond binary.

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