Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes, your knees buckle, and the earth trembles beneath you. You will be okay. In fact you will be better than okay. Stand by your principles, and the truth will set you free. How? You will like yourself much more this way, and your confidence will show. You will be freed from taking responsibility for other peoples’ reactions, free from needing to be liked, free to expand your mind and life in every direction. Maybe best of all, authenticity creates its own momentum and pretty soon your voice stops shaking and your knees stop knocking and all you hear from the earth is her quiet encouragement to “keep going”.
Sure, there are costs to speaking your truth. And sure, there are more and less effective ways of speaking your mind. But if you do it skillfully and for the right reasons, and let go of controlling the outcomes, the truth will catapult you into a life of blue sky freedom.
It’s one of the best known phrases in the Bible and the motto for many schools, “The truth will set you free.” The ancient Greek word for truth is alétheia. It means “not hidden” or beyond appearance. It’s the word that most closely corresponds to modern phrases, coming out, living authentically, and expressing yourself.
This sort of truth is less about being right in any technical or absolute sense and more about being authentic and transparent. It’s about revealing the essential nature of who you are. You can forgive poor elocution, clumsy grammar and rough edges for the sake of passion. You can’t make up for a lack of passion with even the most careful crafted argument.
There’s something magical about telling your story. I love the scene at the end of The Help. Abilene came to a major realization as she walked away from the baby she had raised, with the baby screaming for her to come back. The voice over says,
God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.
The look on her face at that point is the look of freedom; like a weight had lifted. She realized she would be a writer and tell her story. Most of us don’t square off in presidential debates or suffer under the weight of 1960’s southern racism. But we ALL have things to come out about, and authenticity is a lifelong process. It’s a lifelong task to hone and sharpen your truth like a knife and then use it to cut through the superficial pretense of conformity. Popularity and status quo and external expectations don’t hold a torch to the light that authenticity shines, and the freedom is exquisite. Life is too short and there is too much joy in authentic freedom to mess around even for a second being anything other than who you are.
Does authenticity come with any guarantees? No. You don’t know how others will react, or exactly what it’s going to mean for you, and you might want to give people a heads up that change is coming. But trust them, no, trust yourself. Authenticity is irresistible, and breeds copy cat acts of truthfulness. Marianne Williamson was so right, “Your authentic presence will automatically liberate others.”
Come out in some way, large or small, today. Do it for yourself, to experience what it really is to be alive. And do it for the world, because you have no idea how needed your truth may be. Do it, even if it scares you.
As fire brand feminist, Naomi Wolf, said,
Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.