Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.

Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.

I (Dr. Donnelly) am pretty well known for not being afraid to speak truth to bullshit. My rants are well known among my friends and I usually have limited patience for the wholesale dismissal of the truth – which is Brene Brown’s definition of bullshit. What I struggle with, sometimes, is being civil.

In the fifth chapter of Braving the Wilderness, Brown talks about this important dichotomy. We must call lies on the carpet. But first, let’s talk about why being civil is so important.

“Bullshit”, these days, is public currency. The particular breed of it that is insidious these days is hyper-tribalized language that dresses up opinion as truth and demonizes anyone who says otherwise. “If you agree with me, you are the right kind of people”, this language says, “and if you disagree with me, you are a minion of Satan himself.” We easily dismiss people this way – as though people are easy to categorize into boxes – and we miss the holy mess of humanity. We are all right and wrong every day. We contain darkness and light and we are always growing and needing to learn.

This is where being civil comes in.

Civility reclaims humanity. It rejects the narrative of opinion as truth, rejects that if someone disagrees with us they are less than. Therefore, it also prizes actual truth. But how we prize that truth and present that truth is crucial.

You see why Brown put both of these together.

In terms of teamwork, this is crucial. To avoid the toxicity, we must emphasize the civility of truth. So what does that mean? It means that we create a culture where belittling is not allowed, where insults are not tolerated, and where inclusivity is celebrated. Be aware that words can cause pain, and so choose them wisely, and speak with fierce kindness.

In my life, that’s become how I frame my conversations. I want to speak fiercely, and firmly, but with kindness and grace. This means I will not back down from the things I know in my gut I must stand firm on, but I will speak that conviction without shaming the opposing viewpoint. This, to be completely frank, is a discipline and discipline requires bravery.

We have two more sections of wisdom from Brown before we close out our quarterly intention. Have you been reading along with us? Get something different out of this than I did? I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, be brave, beloved. We believe in you.

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