Black women have a longstanding tradition whereas we say something really awful about someone, then justify doing so by saying, “I was just telling her the truth.” White southern women do something similar, only their amelioration is done with an insincere “bless her heart.” By calling it truth telling we wrap these daggers we throw in self-righteousness. After all, what could possibly be wrong with telling the truth? Essentially, they let us throw a rock and hide our hand. In other words, it is the exact opposite of honesty. Because here’s the thing, I guarantee that nobody needs to be told anything negative about themselves. They. Already. Know. We live in a culture where we are trained nearly from birth to find fault with ourselves. After all, fixing yourself is big business, and America is all about business. Don’t believe me? Then try this experiment with your friends. Ask them to make a list of positive attributes about themselves and a second list of negative attributes. I guarantee the negative list will be significantly longer.
See when it’s all said and done, so-called truth telling is not for the benefit of the tellee. How could it be? You’re essentially taking coals to Newcastle. No, truth telling is about the teller. It’s a put down. How do I know this is true? Simple. How many times have you heard someone claim they’ve just “told the truth” about something positive? I’m nearly fifty years old and I’ve never heard it. Are you telling me that all these so-called “honest” people never have anything positive to say in all their truth telling? Of course they don’t.
As black women we live in a culture that is constantly throwing brickbats our way. We’ve heard all the slams time and again, we certainly don’t need to direct them at each other. We are so rarely treated with kindness and tenderness that it’s hard to find any for one another, but it’s past time that we try. The next time you feel the urge to do some “truth telling” dig deep and decide what your motives are. Are you really trying to benefit the other person? If you are, reconsider. Would it not be better to offer that person loving kindness and support? How about doing some positive truth telling? Certainly it would have a greater effect. The receiver will probably be so shocked she might choose to change the behavior you find so troubling in the first place. Because that’s how we enact change–through love. And, if nothing else, you won’t be contributing to the pile on that so many of us deal with every day. As black women we hear so much harshness and downright hate directed toward us that many of us have grown immune to it. We don’t even hear it anymore, and actually that’s a good thing. But love and support? That’s like the warm sun on a chilly morning. A welcome surprise. Try telling other black women that you love them. Talk to and about them with love, compassion and consideration. I make a point of complimenting all the black women I see, most respond with surprise, and then a warm smile. It’s my hope that they will do the same with other black women they encounter, but even if they don’t, at the very least I’ve added a bit of kindness to another woman’s day. Try it and see if it doesn’t feel better and is far more effective than so-called truth telling.