T-Wizzle and I talk frequently about clean communication. When we express our complete truth without fear of criticism, we cleanse ourselves and allow others to be cleansed as well. Yet this type of communication requires us to be vulnerable and share those parts of ourselves that we believe are impure or dirty.
As a matter of hygiene and principle, people don’t like dirt. We feel wrong when things are grimy. So we create wipes, solvents, lotions, and soaps to eliminate any filth and make our surroundings clean, shiny, and beautiful.
What we often forget, though, is that there is no growth without dirt. Nature needs soil in order to plant seeds. That same soil offers nutrients and protection while those seeds germinate, bud, and blossom. People aren’t much different. We have to reach down into our dirt in order to plant seeds of compassion that can grow and blossom. It’s that compassion that allows us to truly connect with others.
This message came through to me so clearly when I saw Babel a few weeks ago. In the film, Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett) and her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) are touring Morocco in an attempt to reconnect after the loss of a child and a brief separation. While eating dinner, Susan criticizes Richard for putting possibly unclean ice into his drink, and she repeatedly uses hand sanitizer to keep away any germs. But when she is shot in a bizarre accident, and there is no hospital available, she cannot ward off the dirt. It’s getting dirty that enables her and her husband to finally come clean and express themselves fully, without fear of being misunderstood.
Seeing Babel made me think about my communication with myself and others. Am I digging into my dirt and expressing my feelings? Am I being as clean and clear as I can in what I say? Am I speaking my deepest truths?
Society doesn’t promote clean communication: it’s all about making sure someone else isn’t hurt. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” right? But what about saying something helpful? In my experience, nice words are often enabling of bad habits and poor behavior. Saying “he deserved it” or “she wasn’t worth the time” may be “nice words” that seem clean, but they are just another way to make things look shiny and pretty on the surface. They aren’t the words that get down and dirty and address the truth.
Yes, it’s hard to come clean. And yet once you do, the truth that comes through is fresher, purer, and brighter than you can ever imagine.