Something's been bothering me lately (couldn't all my posts start this way? I'll just make this my header & save time): this glorification of not having a filter. Like it's a good thing to say anything and everything that comes to your mind out loud. It makes me wonder, what ever happened to just plain "rude"?
Customer/boss/neighbor/friend says something harsh, cutting, or insulting and when you tell someone what was said their response is "well, you know her, she has no filter".
And you think, "oh...well...ok, then...can I not have a filter too? Just say whatever heinous thing pops into my mind the second it does with no consideration of the consequences?"
And the answer to that, of course, is YES...you can. But some of us choose not to. Because, while we want to (and do) speak our minds, we don't like to go around carelessly hurting people, either. And so we continue filtering.
But it makes me wonder: when did having a filter become such a bad thing?
Let's analyze that word filter for a sec:
a filter, according to Merriam-Webster, means "something that has the effect of holding back elements or modifying the appearance of something". Hmm...come to think of it, there are many things I enjoy in my life that are filtered (no, not just my Instagram pics...holy dark spots, Batman). I'm talking necessities, things we really need like:
#1: Coffee (yes, I put it above water and air). See, I enjoy that coffee, in large part, because of my coffee filter. The filter doesn't KEEP ME from having the coffee, it just keeps the nasty grounds out while letting through the aroma, flavor, and color of the beans (in other words, all the best parts).
#2: Water--we must have it, but in it's unfiltered form it can make us sick.
#3: And, if we're getting really basic, how about air? Love the ol' air filter--without it I'd probably be sneezing my head off.
You see where I'm going with this.
Having a filter, of any kind, is a positive thing because it doesn't KEEP YOU FROM getting said thing, it just allows you to get the best parts of it without all the s-bomb that would come along with it otherwise. Likewise, in our interactions, having a filter does not mean that you are fake or not telling the truth of a situation. What "having a filter" does is allow that truth to come through without all the nasty stuff coming out with it. It's actively choosing to put space--even just a teensy weensy bit--between the sometimes critical, judgmental, hurtful thoughts we think and what actually comes out of our mouths (or out through our keyboards).
Look, we're all human and slip up from time to time--I know I do, especially with those closest to me. So I'm not suggesting that we all strive for perfection on this. But what I AM suggesting is that we stop glorifying this idea of giving people who routinely treat others with condescension and plain rudeness a free pass over and over again, excusing their behavior with "well, you know, he has no filter".
And let's also please stop suggesting that directness laced with kindness equates with weakness, or that it somehow implies you are BS-ing or being overly "PC". The watering down, the beating around the bush, those are not what I'm suggesting we strive for. They are not the same as using a filter to speak the truth with kindness and tact. To me, the latter is the definition of true power--the kind of power where you make eye contact and do the hard thing, stating the unwavering truth that's hard to hear but needs to be said, and do it in a way that doesn't involve hurtful, cutting words.
The point is: you can tell it like it is AND still be kind.
Sounds easy, but it really is a skill...a REAL form of power. And I think it's become greatly undervalued.
As for this "no filter" business? Cutting words, snark, passive aggression, condescension...it's, in my mind, one of two things: either ignorance (the person doesn't understand the skill of delivering the truth with love) or an attempt to get power by draining it from someone else. These days I don't stick around long for either.
So, is there ever a time for unfiltered truth? You know, the kind without kindness? I think so. There may be a time and place for unfiltered truth, but that time isn't ALL THE TIME and that place isn't EVERYWHERE.
I can't help but wonder as I write...am I a hypocrite here? Can I really call myself a "truth-teller" in my writing if I'm filtering it? I struggle with this because I'd love to be in a position to tell the complete, unfiltered truth about so many things--my career, my marriage, motherhood. But the reality is that sometimes that completely unfiltered truth can be hurtful for my people. Is being able to share whatever is on my mind whenever it pops up worth hurting the ones I care about most?
Maybe the better question is this: is everything that pops into our minds before consideration ALWAYS necessarily our "truth"? Maybe what's truth isn't the unfiltered, but that good stuff we get after the filtering. Kind of like that yummy coffee we drink after it's been filtered.
Maybe what pops into our minds shouldn't immediately come out of our mouths or be posted on the page because it's just our truth IN THAT MOMENT. What the filtering does when we put just a little quiet or space between the thought and the reaction, is it sometimes sheds light on a truer truth--one we can't hear in the noise or see in the knee-jerk reaction.
Glennon Doyle talks about hard times and pain being like those sifters kids play with on the beach: ALL the stuff goes in and when you lift up, just the sand pours through while the treasures remain. Struggle, conflict, pain is a little like that--it has a way of sifting out all we don't need so that what does remain is only what really matters--the treasures. Filtering is not always a bad thing.
Maybe our filters with each other could, and should, be more like that sifter rather than a dumping. No BSing or being overly PC, just a truth that has the pain and anger filtered out and offers only what's really at the heart of what we need to say. That filtering is what writing does for me--it sifts. And the truth left behind, that's the kind of truth I want my son, my students, all my people to see.