Last week I had dinner with a friend that I haven’t seen in a while. We became friends when we realized that were both reading the Song Of Ice And Fire Series. I was a barista at the time and he was a regular customer.
Heated discussions about the Lannisters turned to talk of other things; specifically Pathfinder, a modern take on Dungeons and Dragons. For over a year he was my game master but since I quit gaming a few months back we haven’t had much of a chance to see each other.
So last Friday we met for burgers because losing track of old friends is a sadness I’ve had just about enough of.
And the conversation changed my life.
We started out just catching up; he is seeing someone new and starting a new business venture. I am getting ready to move to Arizona. We had a lot to talk about. But then the conversation turned.
He has always been someone that I desperately admire. He is one of those people (I hope you know at least one) with an innate ability to make everyone around him feel at ease. Conversation with him is easy and I often find myself sharing things with him that I’m not comfortable telling my own mother. He is open and honest and those who know him trust that he will always tell them the truth. He is the kind of person I want to be.
And finally, I told him so.
“How do you do it?” I asked. “Have you always been this way?”
His answer was no, that it had taken a lot of hard work and self-reflection to become comfortable in his own skin. He described his journey a bit and then said the words that I will never forget.
“If you have nothing to hide,” he said. “Then you are free.”
Inconspicuous words, perhaps but truer words I have never heard. Another way of saying it might be, “Secrets keep you sick.”
Think about a time when you have had a secret, or something that you wanted to say but didn’t. When it is inside of you, it is huge and dark; it seems to take over your mind. It takes effort to conceal and that effort can be draining. Exhausting. And eventually you let it out.
If it comes out poorly, after a long time of lying hidden the resulting explosion of truth can be disastrous. But if you manage to speak your truth on your own terms, before it takes you over and explodes out, there is a feeling of undeniable relief. A sense of liberation and even of power.
Words left unsaid can rule you. But the simple act of telling the truth, to others but most importantly to yourself, can be the most freeing thing you’ll ever do.