My son suffers from an excess of truthfulness. Is that an impossibility, you ask? How can somebody tell too much truth? Daniel has no problem telling someone they’re fat, or that they sucked at the last round of a video game, or if they have a funny limp. We’ve constantly struggled with his brutal honesty. We tell him “Please don’t tell people they’re fat. It’s rude.” He replies, “Well, it’s true!” as if that settles the matter. He’s going to be sixteen in a few months, and Judi and I have yet to convince him that peoples’ feelings matter.
He’s wired for sharp honesty. I’m not. I was raised to be mostly quiet, and have found myself stifling whatever-it-is I’m feeling, examining and re-examining how stating my thoughts would affect another. I don’t like to make waves, and it takes an extreme circumstance before I’ll share my opinion on a matter, especially if it’s controversial.
Late in the 1970s, I wrote a 3-typed-page protest against a local rock concert, and sent my thoughts to the newspaper. To my surprise, they actually published my letter, which was mostly lifted from a sermon by Kenneth Copeland. My prose simply boiled over with Satan references and demon sightings, and how the Eagles, and Queen, and Sha Na Na, were all going to hell for glorifying this Devil’s music. I’ve since changed my opinion on many of my beliefs from early-adolescence, but that’s not the point. In fact, I just realized, I haven’t even made the point yet. The point was, I woke up at midnight, and felt compelled to write this letter, so I sat down and began typing for the next few hours, until my mind was finally able to rest, and I could go to sleep. It was, in my mind, an extreme circumstance, and I had to act before I could continue with the rest of my life.
The same thing happened last week. I wrote a post about a woman who, I felt, being a public figure, was responsible for unfair words in a public forum, and I called her on it. I didn’t sit down with a leer and think, “Well I just jabbed her real good.” In fact, it took me 4 days of thinking, and struggling to articulate my words.
I process things in silence, unlike my wife and many of my friends. I don’t talk out problems. I have to think them through, let them simmer awhile, until I can pick the bones out of the stock, and recognize my thoughts for what they are: really really crappy stew. And that’s about as far as I can carry this metaphor without it exploding hot liquid all over my face. What I mean to say is, I think. I don’t lash out. If someone says something harsh or hurtful, I almost never respond. I think, “Well, they must have had a reason to say what they did. Maybe it was a bad reason, but if it made them feel better…” And move on, accepting their rant, or criticism, or whatever. I can’t control what others say.
I also get pissed off sometimes. I can no longer sit still and stew (no pun intended) over a though. At night, I have to get up and write it out, or I can’t sleep. Most of the time, nobody sees those thoughts. Yesterday was different. I didn’t revel in my castigation of this person. I didn’t even want to post it, necessarily. I felt compelled to put it online.
Part of that compulsion was for the sake of honesty. I bury too many of my feelings. Too often, I let words fall by the wayside, and pay no heed. I prefer not to to stretch my emotional muscles, unless it’s “funny” or “lament.” I am scared to express anger. So, for me to let go, in public, was incredibly uncommon. It only happens once every couple years. I took a few jabs and shame-on-yous for my comments. I’m okay with that. I chose, like my son, to tell the truth for a change, rather than sit on my emotions and seethe. I realized, the moment I posted the thing, people might be upset, might even delete me from their Facebook lists. I was okay with that too. It’s time for me to grow up, and learn to finally, after all these years, to tell the truth, even if the action pulls me from my comfort zone. When I grow up, I guess I’m saying, I want to be more like Daniel.