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From Pretzel to Principle: Speaking Truth with Kindness

There was a period in my life when I often found myself giving answers I didn't truly believe in, just to keep the peace or avoid confrontation. I'd tell small lies, convincing myself that I could somehow rectify the situation later. This usually meant compromising my own well-being to maintain harmony or stay in someone's 'good graces.'

When my sponsor and I sat down and talked about that particular behavior she asked me, "What goes through your head when you do that?" I shocked myself by blurting out, "I see my mom's or dad's faces of disapproval in my head, being disappointed or angry with me, when I did something they didn't like, and would try to bullshit them to keep them happy or calm."

Sitting there with Ruth, I was like… "Who the f*ck just said that? Did that just come out of my face?" Before I could wrap my head around what I just said and process it, she asked another question. It wasn't the normal "Why did you…" it was, "What does it cost you, to do that to yourself?" The answer was easy. "My self-esteem, because I'm caretaking the feelings of others, and trying to run around and prevent people from suffering, even if it harms me… approval seeking, being depressed or anxiety ridden, financially depleted, or just bashing myself in my head for not living up to my values."

She said, "Trying to make everything perfect for others was dishonest (on a spectrum), and frankly can be a version of manipulation, cause you're trying to block facts." The solution we arrived at and practiced together was simple yet challenging. It was learning to say 'yes' when I truly meant it and 'no' when I didn't.

The objective was to stop treating interactions like transactions, where I was seeking approval instead of genuinely engaging. She pointed out that honesty doesn't include trying to fix, manage, guide, and control others' reactions or responses, cause I'm assuming they might not be able to handle the reality. Instead, the invitation was to be clear, decisive, and direct, yet kind, without contorting myself into positions that went against my values, leaving me like a pretzel; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

—Dignity and Grace

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