Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Look at Brutal Truth

Today I read The Dark Side of Christian Reviews by Linda Yezak. She was responding and elaborating on this from The New Authors’ Fellowship:  Outside the Echo Chamber. In this post Mike Duran says: Most Christian reviewers seem to feel obligated to give good reviews to their brethren.

I agree totally with both posts.

And then I came here, to my blog, forgetting I had recently posted Brutal Truth.

Do I believe Christian Writers have an obligation to be truthful with one another? Absolutely. Yet we need to season our words with salt. We should not speak brutally as I have heard others, including myself, do at times.

We should not take delight in ripping others apart and that’s the reasoning behind Brutal Truth. truth


Let’s look at the inspiration for my poem:




Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind 

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Emily Dickinson words pack a powerful punch. Yes, we must tell the truth, but notice the line “with explanation kind.” Our words should always be those of love, or else we might “blind.”

Words are powerful. Our words are powerful.

And that’s what I tried to convey in this poem:

Brutal Truth by Sheila Odom Hollinghead

Brutal truth shatters our self delusions.

Clashing cymbals

pierce as truth blinds and tears

soundless fall.

(We all know the old “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s simply not true. Words can, and often do, break hearts. Especially “truthful” words told by heartless people.)

Clashing symbols of

self shatter and delusions

soundless fall.

Truth lies content.

(“Clashing symbols of self” refers to the fact that we often have opposing views, especially writers. At times we think our words are wonderful. Other times we think they’re rubbish. I’ve personified “truth,” but this actually refers to the person who tells the “truth” with such brutality. Yes, they’re now content that they have left you broken.)

Self shattered and delusions

searingly engraved by

truth, lies contend

for fragile souls.

(The problem arises when we take something that perhaps is true and turn it into an untruth, a lie. Someone might say, “Your grammar is terrible!” True. But then we take it to mean we are terrible writers. Not true. Grammar is just the tool to get the story out. We may have wonderful story-telling abilities and that’s what makes good writers. We must evaluate critiques dispassionately and not allow them to turn us into a quivering mass, afraid to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard.)

Searing in graves,

piercing truth blinds and tears

fragile souls.

Brutal truth shatters our self delusions.

(And, so, we go to our graves, never utilizing the talents God has given us because we have allowed “brutal truth”  to tear and shred our souls, to destroy our true selves.)

The main point of my poem is this: It’s okay to have self delusions, to dream big. Plagued with self doubts, we will never try. We have to delude ourselves into thinking, “Yes, I’m a great writer.” This gives us the confidence to pick up the pen and begin to travel the path to publication. Self delusions are not always bad. They only become bad when we think we’re so great we do not need truthful input from others.

Truthful but not brutal.

So let’s “tell the truth but tell it slant”!

P.S. In a coincidence, one of those God things, I just read Industrial Strength Friends in which Ray Noah says this: There’s an interesting verse, Psalm 141:5, that says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil to my head.  My head will not refuse it.”  The Hebrew word for kindness is “hesed”, which means loving acts of authentic friendship.  We need to have people who have the freedom to be totally, lovingly truthful with us. And, by the way, we need to be that kind of friend as much as we need them.The temptation we all face is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good but don’t help us to become righteous. However, we will never grow past our character flaws and personality weaknesses if we don’t have people speaking truth into our lives.  Proverbs 15:31 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.”  There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “A friend is one who warns you.”  Got anyone who will warn you?

And he ends his post with this: That’s not a declaration of open season for brutal honesty, but it does speak of the vital connection between the health of our whole being and the difficult conversations needed to get us there—and God’s gift of true friendships that makes it possible. (emphasis mine)

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1 comment:

  1. Once again, this is a topic that seems to be getting a fair bit of 'air time'. Truth is essential, but I do think there is a courtesy that should be extended to the author if what you felt is not flattering. I have taken to contacting the author if my review is three stars or less before posting. I didn't always do this, but I appreciated it when someone else did this for me. I don't necessarily follow this rule if it is a book I purchased on my own and I was not asked to review the book or I do not know the person... In one case, the book was so bad, I just had to post my review among all the other glowing ones. (Obviously he had a lot of friends willing to endorse something for no other reason than friendship...) I felt like people needed to be warned and that wasn't happening amid all the other fluff!
    It is a conundrum that we face in this age of online and instant everything.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.