By Rev. Paul Graves
Woman’s voiceover: “I’ve never been healthier.”
Man’s voiceover: “Shingles doesn’t care. But Shingrix can protect.”
So begins one of the most honest TV ads I’ve seen in a long time. It pitches Shingrix, a vaccine for shingles, by brazenly advertising a truth piece about shingles: it doesn’t care who you are.
It got me thinking. How would we deal with the realities of our daily lives if we admitted another brazen statement: TRUTH DOESN’T CARE?
Because when all is said and done, a certain type of truth really doesn’t care how much we avoid it, how much we manipulate people, how much we deny the parts of who we are that we can’t stand. Transactional Truth doesn’t care about all of that!
Then my contrarian mind got to thinking again. What if truth wasn’t always transactional, but was also transformational? What might life be like if we didn’t feel the compulsive need to avoid the truth, to hide our truth from others? What would our community life, our corporate life, our political life, be like if we were free to live out this truth: Truth doesn’t care?
But if it’s transformational, I think truth does care!
The implications of living in the freedom offered by those two questions are staggering! Transactional truth normally sticks to facts and opinions. If it’s benign, those are merely exchanged as information. If that truth is more toxic, the information is designed to manipulate or shame.
A benign example: A year ago this past weekend, we attended my 60th high school class reunion in Kellogg, Idaho. It had been delayed two years by Covid. We engaged in a lot of transactional truth-telling, talking about families, current cultural issues, etc. But the truth in our sharing mostly had no lasting impact on us. It was what it was. It didn’t care.
Transformational truth-telling can be a much different matter! It does care, and hopes that change is given a chance to work on the truth-teller and the truth-hearer. When truth is transformational, truth cares very much, because when you accept it, you are free to receive life in fuller, much more honest, courageous ways.
Another true example: I know a young lesbian woman. She feels she isn’t allowed to speak her truth in her own family, even to her grandfather. He loves her, but she doesn’t know if he knows (or has admitted) that she is lesbian. And he is in declining health.
Their silent bargain is transactional when their truths don’t care about their silence. The courageousness of Transformational Truth will potentially allow them to love each other more honestly, deeply, even may be restorative of their relationship.
An old Vaquero (Mexican cowboy) saying colorfully captures transformational truth: “You can’t change the truth, but the truth can change you.”
Jesus says the same thing. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
His affirmation was preceded in 8:1-11 by the infamous story of a woman caught in adultery whose accusers want to stone her: “let those without sin cast the first stone.” She and her accusers were, at least momentarily, changed by Jesus’ transformational truth-telling.
You see, at one level, Truth doesn’t care what we believe. We can hide from it, manipulate or distort it.
Yet at a deeper level, truth cares very much how we respond to it. Truth doesn’t change. But we are called to change when Transformational Truth seeps into our souls.
The Rev. Paul Graves is a retired elder member of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.