The Naked Emperor

The truth will set you free. Or so they say. They also say the truth hurts. Regardless of what the truth does to us, it is what it is. That’s why we call it the truth.

But the truth can be very hard to accept. Little kids speak the truth to just about everyone, until they learn about the game of life. You don’t need to speak the truth when you play the game of life.

In our efforts to create meaning in our lives, the truth can be irrelevant. Little kids learn pretty quickly that truth without power is meaningless. Or worse, it can cause great suffering.

History is written by the victors. The emperors. So is truth. In our daily lives, that includes just about anyone with power over us. Like teachers, bosses and parents. Or just about anyone with a temper.

It makes it really hard to live truthfully in the world when we’re surrounded by people we can’t be honest with. So many truths never spoken.

I’ve spent the better part of my life being invited into other people’s families, and trying to expose all those naked emperors. The parent who refuses to face their addiction, or insists they hit their kids only when they deserve it, or that their marital conflict is none of their kids business.

When people can’t accept the truth, it’s invariably because it exposes their vulnerability. Not to mention the impact it has on the kids who have to live with the impact of so much untruth, like self-blame, fear of judgment, and perhaps the worst of all, shame.

Trying to confront people with the truth can be challenging and stressful. After all, they do shoot the messenger, and speaking truth to power is indeed dangerous. But you cannot overcome a problem that you cannot face.

When kids speak the truth, they come from a place of love and acceptance. They only see the world as it is, they don’t judge it. That part is learned. Our relationship with the truth starts at this point in life, when we learn if it’s okay to speak our truth or if we have to lie.

In the world we live in, the rules of the game shut out the voices of the powerless. The fearful. And kids. As long as we don’t allow our kids to tell us their truth, we have to live with more of our lies, and we both lose some of the love. The love that comes with understanding and acceptance.

It’s time to change the rules of the game, and it starts with, once again, that great equalizer, empathy.