The Art of Speaking Your Truth

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“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have” – Oprah Winfrey

Say what you want about Oprah, but that lady is on to something.

As I sat watching her Golden Globe Speech [the next day on YouTube because who even watches live TV anymore and who even purchases cable anymore for that matter?], I could not help but feel empowered by her words. Her words resonated with not only me, but a large community of people who have been speaking some very difficult truths as of late.

I tried to put to words what my truths are, here for you to read, in the glow of this empowerment. And then, slowly at first, this empowerment faded. And I sat looking at a half finished story with no empowerment left to push me forward.

Instead, a new feeling took its place. Two feelings actually. Two feelings I can only describe as ashamed and broken.

Ashamed because speaking my truth has not always been something I have done. Ashamed because I’ve kept quiet more times than I can count and only in the past several years have been finding my voice. Ashamed because my silence has been taken as complacency when internally I am not complacent. I am raging.

Broken because I have not always known my truth. Finding out who you are and what you stand for is no easy task. Getting the courage to say something you know you believe in can be even harder. Physically broken as if your body has decided you will not speak. Broken when your brain is clawing at the words you should be saying but you stand, watching the world tick by.

And then these feelings, too, dissipated. Not feeling empowered, broken, or ashamed, I sat. And I sat some more. And I played with my cats. And I thought, what are my truths? Which to me, means what am I passionate about? And I was ready to write about those truths which can be summed up by one word: equality. Sexual equality. Racial equality. Gender equality. Workplace equality. ALL the equalities. And I sat some more, but this time in front of a computer with fingers to keyboard.

But then I made the mistake of clicking on the internet instead of opening a Word document. And the internet raged around me, as it so often does. The internet could not help but feel empowered by Oprah’s words either, it turns out. They raged on about the phrasing of “your truth” and not “the truth” claiming “your truth” opens way for dicey interpretations and the ability of anybody to hide under a racist/bigot/idiotic/ridiculous remark saying well it is how I feel so it is truth.

And I. could. not. even.

So.

Me, being a part of this collective internet, would like to participate in a little exercise that I hope sheds at least some clarity on how to use any type of truth correctly. *

*All characters appearing in this exercise are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Once upon a time there was a lady, let’s call her Penny McTarthy. Penny claims you should not vaccinate your children because vaccinations cause autism. Penny holds on to this statement with passion and claims it to be truth, her truth through experience.

So the real question here is, is Penny speaking truth? Do vaccinations cause autism?

And the answer is a loud and resounding NO. The truth is that these are Penny McTarthy's opinions. 

The answer comes down to a problem we have in this country. A problem I think the 44th president of this great nation summed up perfectly:

“One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts.” – Obama

[side bar – go watch him on David Letterman’s new talk show on Netflix: My Next Guest Needs no Introduction with David Letterman. You can thank me later]

Obama also quoted a New York senator who said the following:

“You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Let me repeat that for you one more time. You are NOT entitled to your own facts.

So go forth and find your truths. Go forth and speak your truths. Just make sure those truths are backed by facts. Otherwise, you are just spewing your opinions. 

And while, we all have the right to speak whatever version of truth you want and opinions certainly do have their place, – it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re worth anything.