What if you tell the truth of your own experience?
And what if in so doing, the wound you sustained is not denied, but liberated?
In their 1999-2000 report, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) categorized and/or redefined “truth.” Their purpose was to heal trauma and horrifying violence that victims experienced during apartheid, as the country forged ahead with a new, democratic government. I found their process incredibly instructive and see applications to not only for countries, but for communities, families, couples and individuals. In this time of painful truth-telling, this can be a roadmap, a lamp, a way forward. Here are the four types of truth they illuminated:
1. Forensic Truth – What happened to whom, where, when, how, who was involved. This can include verbatim reports, addresses, graffiti, photos, facts surveying the human condition. This can also material taken from medical charts, war and peace reports, statistics. Facts describe, they don’t interpret.
2. Personal Truth – This is truth of one’s personal experience, of recollection and memory. In the words of the TRC, “Memories of pain, however flawed with forgetting…” are witnessed and honored. Not debated. Personal stories are not the whole or full truth, “but they are integral to the truth that leads to new justice.”
3. Community Truth – “I” becomes “we,” “us,” “ours.” Multiple forensic and personal truths are woven into the community’s story, as in: This is how we – our culture, our land, our memories, our language, our children, our community – were affected. According to the TCR: “The truth of experience…is established through interaction, discussion and debate…the process of dialogue…includes transparency, democracy and participation,” all of which make ground for reaffirming dignity and integrity.
4. Healing Truth or Public Truth – This truth exposes past events to bring about public awareness of wrong-doing and harm done, such that we collectively agree: “no more” or “never again.” Out of the matrix of the three proceeding truths, we begin finding the way beyond what was. This is a perspective changer. We see ourselves and our pain in a new light. We endeavor to work it out together. Forming a new unity, we talk back to darkness.
Should you decide to share the truth of your experience, make sure it’s to someone who can listen. Without interfering. As in giving advice, telling you it wasn’t so bad, offering opinions and the like. There is no one truth any of us can claim, but we can speak to our own experience, and in so doing, walk into a new possibility. Bless you.
(My thanks to Kim Stafford for reminding me of the work of the TRC.)