Skip to main content

Denver poet, Joy Sawyer, writes about “Truth-Telling and Nakedness” in her book, The Art of the Soul: Meditations for the Creative Spirit. She urges those who want to create good art to resist the urge to sanitize their writing. Good art is truth-telling, she says … which (conversely) tells me that truth-telling is good art.

I know this. We all do. We admire it when we see it, hear it, and read it. We’re just not so sure we care that much about “good art” when it comes to sharing our own stories. Maybe we prefer our neat, tidy versions of … pretense, falsehood, and lies. {Ouch!} But, what if we were more committed to truth-telling than pretense and facades? What if we stopped editing down (and out!) the sordid details we’d rather not share?

When we’re tempted to shrink from or sanitize the truth, Sawyer recommends referring to the most epic example of honest story-telling ever. The Bible, she says, sets an “incredibly challenging artistic precedent” with no tidying up of the stories of saints and psalmists and scoundrels.

You see, God is the consummate Truth-Teller, and cares nothing whatsoever about how our lives look on the outside. What He does care about, more than we can think or imagine, is the true story of our hearts and lives from the inside out. Here’s how one of His major messengers put it:

We have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter… but the Lord God says, One who trusts will not be ashamed or give way to panic.

Is it scary? You bet. Humbling? Absolutely. Sawyer likens it to “the adolescent dream of stand[ing] stark naked in front of your high school biology class, with no place to hide. Zits and all.” But in addition to the horror of such a scene, there’s an exhilarating sort of free fall in truth-telling. For me, at least, and I’m pretty sure it’s what they call freedom. And the thing that makes it “good art” happens in that moment when the daring of one meets the understanding of another. Because there’s not a soul alive who doesn’t relate to the courage it takes to stand naked right smack dab in the middle of your own story.

And suddenly, there’s a connection that wasn’t there before. One we’ve been longing for our whole lives. Something like a “warm blanket covers our exposed hearts and shivering souls … [and we realize] we don’t have to flee in horror and shame” from the truth of our own stories. After all, everybody loves a good story, and we all know that honesty makes the best kind.

Love Julie

For more on the idea of the consummate Truth-Teller wrapping us up in a warm blanket of love and acceptance, check out the comforting words of God through His prophet, Isaiah.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.