In fact I was questioning exactly why Brené felt the need to call this chapter “Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil”, until I got to the definition of BS. (And yes, I’m piking, that’s pretty much it for me on the swearing front).
Brené makes it clear that BS is very different from lying. Because lying is a tacit acknowledgement and fight against the truth, but BS is an absolute refusal to acknowledge truth at all.
Drawing on research from Harry Frankfurt she highlights a couple of his key points in his study of BS.
One is that the post-modern philosophy that permeates our society is a key cause of BS. This is the philosophy that there is no truth, but rather that truth is a subjective construct that is determined by the individual.
As an Arts student I recognise this teaching well. As an English teacher, I understand how two readers can approach one text and both can draw different readings from the very same words on the page.
Yet the point that Brené makes struck me to the core. If we operate in a society where truth is no longer objective, then what need do we have to seek truth? We can instead operate in a paradigm where we are simply true to ourselves, and questioning no longer has any value.
The next point follows logically from this. In an arena where there is no such thing as truth, then conversations become a space to win or lose points, rather than a space to listen, learn and understand.
That got me thinking about BS in my life and the instances when I fall back on it rather than follow the uncomfortable and often circuitous route of seeking out truth.
Like Brené, the first arena where I find myself using BS is when I do not know something.
Now, there are plenty of things I do not know. And there are plenty of things where I am happy to say, “I don’t know”.
For example, I know nothing about car mechanics, or sewing, or the intricate world of accounting. These are places when I am willing to own my ignorance and let others take the lead.
But if someone talks to me about world events that I should obviously know, or books that I should have read, my BS capacity increases.
I want to be seen as knowledgeable about the world, about books, and movies, and current affairs. And so I find myself constructing, fudging and yes BSing my way through! (This I am calling external BS as the trigger is external.)
Another area where I find myself using BS is in “the stories I tell myself”, (This drawing on Brené’s work in Rising Strong). This is an internal BS, where my over-thinking, over-analysing brain kicks in, and dissects every part of a conversation or interaction. Usually focusing on where I went wrong, what I could have done better, and how I am hurtful, silly, or unintelligent etc.
At heart for me, the way to combat BS (both external and internal), is to remember that truth is a person. (*John 14:16)
It is then through this filter, through taking both self-generated BS and the BS from others, to the person who is truth, that I am able to navigate this space. It is in asking questions and seeking to understand who He says I am, that I am able to navigate this path of refuting BS, and standing in truth.
So my book club question for you today is:
Where do you find yourself falling back on BS? What are the triggers for you?
These are hard questions, I know, personal questions.
But the more I read this chapter the more I realise that a willingness to ask the hard questions and seek out the answers is key.
Let’s be truth-seekers,
* “I am the way and the truth and the life”