Truth Is Your Best Friend

This article originally appeared in the Holy Ground newsletter.

    Many times in my work as a pastoral counselor, I hear myself saying to someone:  “Right now, your best friend is the truth.”   It’s a paraphrase of something Jesus said:   “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

    Sometimes when I’m speaking these words, it’s to someone whose worry is of the neurotic variety.  Neurotic worry is worry for the sake of worry.  It’s worry about something that’s probably not going to happen:  if they give odds in Vegas about this,  they’re a hundred to one against.  Or it’s worry about something that did in fact happen but ultimately isn’t as big a deal as we fret it is:  if there’s a Richter scale that measures the impact of various occurences, the meter would move less for this one than it does when maple leaves fall on a bunny rabbit. 

    Yes, what you said to your friend might have hurt her feelings, but it probably didn’t, and if it did you can apologize.  Yes, your car might break down on that trip to Texas, but the truth is it probably won’t, and if it does they have mechanics there, too.  Big mechanics. 

    When our worry is neurotic, truth is our friend.  Truth helps us see clearly, and seeing clearly calms us.  What helps with neurotic worry is the same thing that helps a child in a dark room:  a little kindness and understanding, a look under the bed to see there really isn’t a monster there, maybe a reminder that there’s not been a monster there any of the other nights, and a promise that Mom or Dad is right next door. 

    Not all worry is neurotic, of course.  Many times our distress is congruent with reality.  The company where I work is closing, and I will be without a job in three months.  The medical tests confirmed what we were afraid of, and the one I love has a very serious illness.  What I said to my friend did hurt him, and not because he’s overly sensitive.  What I said was impulsive and cruel.  This relationship is broken right down the middle, and I did it.

    Or a bomb explodes somewhere, and more people are killed or hurt or frightened.  A storm comes, the waters of chaos rise again, many people are displaced, and the gauzy veneer that all is well for all God’s children is washed away.  A legislator votes yes to one thing or no to another, and somewhere a child has less of a chance than he did before.  Jesus said he was giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter, but often it seems the warmongers, the greedy, and the inept ended up with a set, too.   

    So what of the truth then?  To paraphrase a bumper sticker, when shift happens, and we don’t need any Richter scale to know the foundations are shaken, how is truth our friend then?   

    To begin with the obvious, the truth is our friend because it’s the truth.  Denial can help for a while.  It buys us some time.  But when our self is sufficiently gathered and ready to meet reality, we need to see as clearly as possible and know what we’re dealing with.  We need to understand things as they are, because right understanding leads to right action. 

    We need more here, however, than the capacity to see the truth of things as they are.  We also need the capacity to see the truth that is deeper than things as they are.  We are not just creatures of the surface.  We are creatures of depth.  We are not just body and mind.  We are also spirit.  We have a soul that is created with the capacity to hear the voice of God deep beneath the voice of our distress.  If our self is like an ocean, as some have said, there is more to us than the top eight or ten feet, where the wind and the tide create ups and downs and backs and forths.  There is depth to us.  There is a place we can descend, deep in our selves, that is constant and still and eternal because the One who is constant and still and eternal is in that place with us. 

    It is important to remember that there are different levels of truth and that some truths are truer than others.  When a child says “My shirt is blue,“ and “My parents love me,“ both are true, but one is a deeper truth.  There is truth, and there is the truth of trumps. 

    Each of us needs connection with some truth of trumps that is deeper than the particular color or circumstance of our lives, true though they may be, and deeper than whatever reflex reactions, also true, we have to these circumstances.  We might call this a transcendent truth, but I prefer to call it trans-descend-ent, because my connection with this truth feels like it happens somewhere deep in my body, somewhere down.  It is a truth deeper than words, but the best words I know are those of the New Testament, that “neither death, nor life . . . , nor things present, nor things to come . . . , nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God.”      

    This is the truth of a hymn more than it is the truth of a creed.  It comes to us not through our heads, like an idea, but through our feet, like gravity.  It comes from the ground -- it is the Ground -- and draws us down and anchors us.  It is a friend.

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