My roommate and I were talking the other day about getting what we want and being polite. She admitted to asking her bosses for time off to attend a training on the genocide and the importance of remembrance with As We Forgive, instead of straight up saying ‘I want to go visit a memorial site with my roommate’. Now seeing as how I do help teach the tenets of reconciliation and represent As We Forgive, her excuse was not entirely wrong. But it wasn’t the truth of her heart. She just wanted to see a memorial with a good friend. I wondered then, why are we so afraid of saying what exactly it is we want?
In our jobs, like my roommate’s story demonstrates, we have learned how to ask for what we know we will get, rather than what we actually want. In our relationships, we just keep quiet and “go with the flow”; afraid of admitting deeper feelings and finding that they aren’t reciprocated (or worse, afraid of admitting a loss of feeling and hurting the other. Thus we drag each other on, leading another to believe that we feel something we don’t actually). After being insulted or embarrassed, we don’t speak up. But our thoughts of doubt do more damage to these relationships and inflict more harm than the truth would.
I live in an incredibly polite society. Appearance is everything. The streets are swept free of dirt, leaves, and what little trash is lying around every morning. Leaving the house requires business attire or dress clothes. And everybody is always fine and wearing a smile.
Which is a little unfortunate.
I admit that I wouldn’t want to be honest with my emotions if my past was filled with feelings that cannot be described. Plus, expressing oneself is terrifying. First, it is incredibly difficult figuring out what exactly you are feeling. Second, we have no idea how people will receive our hearts. So yes, it is much easier to bury it all, and deny your emotions, and put a smile on your face.
But forgiveness and reconciliation cannot occur on the surface.
Healing is possible from storytelling because hearing another’s experiences invites personal connection and thus a restoration of humanity. And the overly polite come across as inhuman. Too good to be true. And if they really are okay, then I cannot possibly admit to my inner sadness or frustration.
It is terrifying to be honest. But doing so ends in fuller understanding of the situation, and often closer friendships. And that is what it means to be human, right?