The Sword of Truth
“...you don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.”
Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird)
In the quote above, Anne Lamott recalls the advice she gave a girl in one of her writing classes who had severely criticized another student's writing. The girl's words were honest, but hurtful. Sometimes the “truth” is too harsh to tell. Southern women have all sorts of ruses for getting around telling hard truths to others. Expressions such as, “Bless your heart.” and “Oh my goodness, that's special!” and “How interesting!” have other meanings in our rhetoric. Most of the time we don't even try to point the sword of truth. We just pull down the shade of sweetness and go on.
I have to say, as much as I hate these stereotypical responses of Southern Belles, I have learned a lot from them. Sometimes our best teachers are people who make us grit our teeth, and, believe me, Southern Belles make me gnash. I once had an adversary who fought me like a scalded cat about bringing children with disabilities into a preschool program she directed at our church. She wanted an untarnished and affluent, white population, and not “those children” in her school. I ranted and railed and told all kinds of “truth” to the Board of Directors, while she smiled sweetly, and served them cookies. I brow-beat that Board into having kids with special needs in the school, but they turned right around and gave her credit for the program! They even erected a plaque to her for her generosity of spirit! It was pretty disgusting.
The problem with chopping with the sword of truth, is that you leave a lot of bleeding people in your wake. You go all “Gen. Sherman” on them, and burn their barns and blow up their bridges so there's no way to get back to where you started. Sometimes even pointing the sword at them is too much because they have already decided you're the enemy and won't hear anything you say, truthful or otherwise. It's usually good to choose your words carefully, and while you don't want to betray your own standards and beliefs, say what you need to say in a kind way. This is a hard, but necessary, lesson for us Anti-Belles.
I hope you're better than I am. I hope that today, you're kind to everyone you meet and bring a note of cheer into this crazy old world. We all need a sweeter, gentler approach to life. Instead of chopping or pointing with the sword of truth, perhaps we could just share a nice cup of chamomile tea, and maybe a cookie or two. I'll put on my white gloves.
In the Spirit,