Sutra Sunday: The Truth Hurts?

Bringing back the Sutras!

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives five yamas, or restraints.  These are the things we should not do.  I outlined the yamas in Being A Bad-@ss YoginiThe first two yamas are ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth).  During teacher training, we discussed how sometimes these two ideas seem to work against one another.  As we often hear, “The truth hurts.”  Right?

I was taught by my teacher that ahimsa always comes first.  Above all, do no harm.  All other yamas are subsequent to this.  However, this does not give us a free pass to lie.  Little white lies are an easy way of preserving someone’s feelings, but this is not the lesson that we should be learning through these two yamas.  The real lesson here is awareness.

Some truths are simple.  They are harmful and therefore probably don’t need to be heard by anyone else.  A character from How I Met Your Mother put it this way, “Just because something needs to be said, doesn’t mean it needs to be heard.”  Taking a moment before you say something gives you the power.  It makes you a deliberate speaker and one who is an advocate for non-harm through real action.

Other truths are more tricky.  Sometimes the possibility of hurt feelings may save someone from harm in the long run.  This takes more discernment than deciding whether or not to say something.  Discerning what your intention is in saying something comes first.  Jake at InstantKarma.org says,

“Often, people say hurtful words and than justify these words by  saying that they had good intentions – they only wanted to help the other  person. This is usually associated with the idea that a person wants to teach someone  how to be a “better” person. If someone leaves their clothes on their floor, they  are given a lecture on how lazy and sloppy they are to help them become a  better person. The intentions of the lecture are to “help” this person. The truth  is, these lectures have very little to do with improving the person, these lectures are  given to change something about a person that someone does not want to live  with. A person usually does not give lectures on being sloppy or lazy because they  really want to help the other person – they give the lecture because they are  tired of cleaning up after them. The motives of such speeches are completely  for oneself.”

If the intention of the speech is truly to help someone, then the task is to decide how it should be said.  Creating a positive sentence takes more time and care than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.  However, it can often save people’s feelings as well as motivate them to take action.

“We can see that the idea of hurtful words and intention do  go together. Telling someone that they are lazy, forgetful, thoughtless,  uncaring, etc. are all hurtful words. Even if they are said with good  intention, i.e. to help “improve” the person, the hurtful words will create a  negative affect. There is an amazing difference in the affect that “Please,  honey, could you put your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of the floor” has  than “Would you stop being such a lazy pig dropping your dirty clothes all over  the damn floor!”. ”

Often we feel that people will be motivated by a blunt or somewhat harmful version of the truth.  This is probably true.  When people say hurtful things to me I automatically find a way to change so that I do not have to hear them again.  It is pain avoidance.  Not true learning.  Sometimes, as Jake stated, the person really does not need to change, you would like them to change to make you more comfortable.

No matter how kind the words, the truth might still sting.  We cannot always predict someone’s reaction to our truth.  But we can use kind words.  We can have good intentions behind our words.  And we can take a moment before we speak to decide.  Tap into your breath, become fully aware of your body in space, repeat a mantra, whatever brings you into the present moment.  Take that moment and make a choice.  Taking control of our words is a powerful message to the world, and ourselves.  We all have the potential to be messengers of truth AND love!

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