Turning away

The more I look, the more it seems to me that among the most personally damaging acts each of us can take is that of turning away from truth.

I’m not talking grand universal truths here – the kind that people claim apply across time and space and across people. It’s quite easy to see that establishing truth in this way is fraught with difficulty.

No, I’m talking about something more basic and immediate: what’s true about this moment, this experience, from the place in which you stand.

If you pay attention, it’s not so difficult to tell when you’re turning away from truth in this way. The truth that you are sad, or joyful, or angry, or despondent, touched or numb, feeling whole or split apart. The truth that this is difficult or painful for you. Or the truth that this is bringing you to life.

The truth that these thoughts you are thinking, whatever they are, are what you are thinking. The truth that what you’re feeling in your body is what you’re feeling. The truth that this place is where you are, and that what you are doing is what you are doing.

When we deny these simple, basic truths to ourselves and others – when we speak of ourselves inwardly or publicly with deliberate inaccuracy – we assault our own integrity. And we cause ourselves tangible harm, in our minds and in our bodies, by putting ourselves at odds with ourselves, fuelling the inner battles that pull us apart.

And then being whole again requires a kind of return, a turning back to the part of ourselves that understands how things really are. A turning back to something simple, and straightforward, the heart of which we’ve known all along.

Photo Credit: -Reji via Compfight cc

2 thoughts on “Turning away

  1. This post inspired in me the following reflection on the way in which ‘turning away’ takes place in the church/Christian culture in which I was raised:

    The kind of examples of ‘turning away’ that I’ve observed in church life include:
    – Acting ‘joyfully’ when we feel anything but
    – Not voicing the questions that plague us, while continuing to recite the ‘correct’ religious phrases
    – Ignoring the difficulties we notice in the scripture text in order to ‘fit in’ with the group

    How perverse that the word faith has popularly come to mean holding as true things that can’t be proved – almost a kind of turning away from common sense and reason. When in fact faith surely means accepting things as they actually are, if anything leaning in to the often uncomfortable reality and difficulties of life, in the belief that this will provide a way to greater depth and truth, or as we might put it, to God.

    It can be helpful to hold in mind that the opposite of faith is not doubt, as so often imagined, but actually fear. Until the fear that is prevalent in the church is acknowledged and confronted, it’s inevitable that there will continue to be such turning away. And what is the means of tackling fear? Perhaps I might be allowed to quote a Bible verse: “perfect love casts out all fear”. Until there is such love, a love characterized by a total openness to other people exactly as they are without trying to make them any different, there will continue to be a turning away, and a lack of true faith.

    • Thank you for writing this Peter. Yes, so many environments – in ‘faith’ communities and traditions and without – in which we turn away from the truthfulness and immediacy of our own experience. I appreciate you writing so fully and honestly about this. Have you come across the work of Richard Rohr? He has much to say about the topics you raise, particularly about opening to the complexity and mystery of the world in a way that invites openness rather than having ‘true/false’ or ‘faith/doubt’ as opposites to one another.

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