There are two sides to love. One side is kind. The other is truthful. I believe that unless we
tend to both, it isn’t love. My friends and family certainly get both. I am not just nice to them. I don’t just tell them what they want to hear. They know where I stand with them. I will tell them the truth.
I’m not one to withhold information. This last understatement will bring much laughter for some people in my life! My siblings have told me they’d prefer it if I kept some things to myself! They live in Europe. I have lived in North America for over 20 years. We are bound to see certain things differently. Being a therapist, and a New Age one at that, well, let’s just say I am not as diplomatic as the English or the Irish.
My sister actually asked me to lie to her from time to time, just to keep things balanced. She wanted me to fake it sometimes, tell her I was happy for her when I was not. That sort of thing. After I stopped laughing, I said that I could promise her I’d always tell her the truth. Not what she expected to hear. But you know, the funny thing is, that before she hung up, she told me that she loved me! She had never said this to me in all of her 30 years.
I don’t think we are doing anyone a favor if we are colluding with them, keeping them in the dark about something that we sense is hurting them. How are we to learn from our relationships if we don’t give each other feedback, shine the light on the old blind spots for one another? Some people don’t want to learn. That’s their prerogative. These people want us to refrain from the other side of love, and we have to respect their wishes. There just won’t be much to talk about.
Personally, I want to hear the good and the bad. I think I can be trusted to look at the feedback and consider it. I can look at my defensiveness when I am told something difficult to hear. It may take me a while, but I will digest the information if it is given with love.
So what’s the difference between malicious and loving feedback? Honesty, if given with love, feels GOOD! It does! You may not always want to hear a truth that someone tells you, but there is a certain resonance within you that sort of switches on, sort of like purring. On one level you feel uncomfortable, exposed, maybe embarrassed, but on another, deeper level, you are absolutely gripped! You know what I mean. We feel seen, LOVED, when someone tells us the truth about us. There is kindness AND power in their words. Good feedback conveys a direct message to your soul. It challenges, uplifts, and supports you all at once. Good feedback does not put you down or belittle you; it does not shame you, or ask you who the hell you think you are. Good feedback is love at it’s best. It is love in action, a verb.
And when we are truly loved, we are challenged to become our very best. We become real, like The Velveteen Rabbit (story by Margery Williams):
”What is real?” asks the Rabbit. And he is told:
"It’s a thing that happens to you, when a child loves you for a long, long time.”
Catriona O’Curry is a freelance writer in Campbell River.