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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Certified Truth Teller

I was the little girl with a knot in her stomach the size of my beloved Thom McCann Cha-Cha boots ("The boots with a beat") who slunk into the shore store on Woodward Avenue to return said boots because, no matter how hard I tried to wiggle my shoes, wear lighter socks, the shoes were just too small. I remember crossing the street with the green light clutching the shoe box, holding on for dear life. How could I tell the shoe salesman that I had to return the boots? There was nothing I could say to mask the truth or the hurt it would surely cause. I didn't know about commissions then or whether or not the man behind the counter would lose his. But I did know about disappointment and was convinced that the return of the shoes would ruin the shoe salesman's day and make me an "Indian giver." (This was 1958 or thereabout.)

Telling the truth wasn't one of the rules of the road in my family. Speaking up was not encouraged. For us--and I would bet for a whole lot of other families--anticipated controversy was to be avoided at all costs. The imperative was not to risk hurting someone else's feelings, even if it meant stuffing hurt or anger or resolution. No wonder there was a lot of dirt under our shag rugs.

I wish I could say that I practiced telling my truth beyond the boundaries of my home. But I did not. Nope, I didn't speak up when a boy crush in 8th grade told me that he liked the way I looked wearing my first pair of contact lenses but that he'd never realized before how big my nose was. I was devastated and, for years, felt unattractive because of my "big" nose. It took until our twentieth high school reunion before I whipped up the nerve to tell him how much that comment had hurt and how he'd gotten into my head and my self-image for decades.

The funny thing was: I felt so much better for having told my truth. Instead of the push back I anticipated and, really, the fear that this old crush of mine would never like me again (even if he didn't appreciate my "big" nose), the effect was just the opposite; he owned up to his insensitivity and apologized profusely.

I should have figured it out then that telling the truth in a non-judgmental way without blame--of leading with how I felt and how it made me feel--was the way to roll. But, no, I didn't get the memo.

I didn't get the memo until years after my brother took his own life--until I ended my first marriage, initiated a separation from my second husband, and hundreds of other life events big and small.

The other day, I was called upon to speak my truth, not once but twice. Both situations were a bit sticky; both had simmered for way too long. I could have gotten away with either ignoring the people involved or pretending that all was hunky-dory. (My husband would have preferred the former.) But I had other ideas. No more bobbing and weaving. Nope, I was on my game and, no matter what the outcome, I was intent upon telling it like it was. And I did!

Today (Drum roll, please), I am here to testify that this older woman is a certified truth teller. And, boy, does it feel good. I won't lie (LOL) and say that it's always easy. It is not. But the rewards of speaking up so outweigh any lingering fears. I won't get all Biblical here, but, apparently, Jesus had it right when it is recorded that he said "The truth will set you free."


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