The truth doesn’t hurt.

“Truth hurts” a phrase often used to justify unkind words and a lack of care around other people’s feelings.

Those of us of a religious bent may even try to spiritualise this notion of “only being honest” as “speaking the truth in love” But let’s face it, as our home secretary has shown us recently, sharing our unsolicited opinions in often brutal and damaging ways under the guise of “tough love” being “challenging” or “speaking my truth” isn’t unique to any one group.

Where has this notion that truth, justice, kindness, compassion and love must be sprinkled with a good dose of cruelty come from? It’s simply not true. Nobody has ever been helped by being hurt, you can’t really be cruel to be kind. If you want to be kind, be kind. If you’re being cruel you’re doing it just to be cruel.

About a decade ago I faced a harsh truth, I was one of “those women” I wasn’t the tough woman I thought I was. I wasn’t the yummy mummy with the perfect family, I was one of “those women” I thought was “stupid” because she “let” her husband abuse her. Of course as I worked through this stuff I learned further truths, that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, it’s not a sign of weakness or stupidity, that we don’t “let” people abuse us.

Acknowledging, accepting and stepping into that truth, as difficult as it was did not cause me pain, it did not hurt, rather it set me free. During that difficult time some people said harsh things to me “you don’t look like a victim” or “it takes two to tango” and even “you wouldn’t have stayed if you didn’t like it” I have no doubt those people believed they were sharing some “home truths” that their words were justified. They were not. They did not help.

Other people chose to say empowering things to me “you can get through this” “this is not your fault” “you did not deserve this” “you’re a good mum” and still others told me truths I may not have liked “he’s not going to change” “he’s trying to manipulate you” “he isn’t to be trusted” but they did not tear me down, they were not cruel, nasty and unkind. They did not dehumanise me, they did not chip away at my self esteem, they gave me reason to hope and reason to work to recover.

And that’s what the truth does. It gives us hope, maybe not in the thing we wanted to have hope in, but in real, tangible, credible things that we can rely on. Real hope. Truth sets us free from lies that trap us in horrible situations, reminds us of our worth, and causes us to lean towards the light, to grow and to blossom.

So, whether you’re home secretary talking about homeless people and refugees or a mum talking to your child about their homework or a friend answering the question “does my bum look big in this” ask yourself what your words will do, will they build up or tear down, will they cause the person hearing them to blossom or to shrivel, will they give cause for hope or promote hate. If it’s the latter of those things: tearing down, shriveling up and promoting hate then it’s worth asking, is this really the truth, or just my own opinion.