Brutally Honest

I’m going to try to give myself permission to be brutally honest about what I believe about Easter and other religious stories.

I often don’t know what I’ll be writing about until I sit before this laptop, center myself and try to discern what I’m supposed to write. I say supposed instead of want to write because I try to figure out what my Inner Light is telling me. Of course, I’m not always successful in being led. If nothing comes to me I might go to option two, to write about something that interests me, anyway.

This morning I’m feeling led to write about some cultural stories, this being triggered because this is Easter Sunday, the most important Christian observance.

Before I could get started, I was led on a detour away from what I thought was going to be the main topic, but might turn out to be the central idea. I started to write about brutal honesty. That sounded a bit harsh, so I looked up the term. The most helpful is summarized below:

  1. Be Brutally Honest with Yourself
  2. Check Your Motives
    So ask yourself this classic trio of questions about your message:
    Is it true?
    Is it necessary?
    Is it kind (or helpful)?
    If the answer to all three isn’t yes, it’s time to reevaluate.
  3. Be More Honest than Brutal
  4. Prepare Them for What’s Coming
  5. Reveal Your Intentions
  6. Be Short and Sweet
    You’re a coward.
    If you can’t be brutally honest with people, especially when you know it’s in their best interest, you’re a coward.
  7. Stick to the Facts
  8. Conclude with a Solution
    Don’t leave them feeling bad because of the truth bomb you just dropped on them. Help them figure out a solution. Give them a way forward.
    Most of all, tell them how you’re going to help them, and commit to helping them tackle the issue.
    How you end the discussion can make all the difference.
    Do you want them to feel defeated, beat down, and discouraged? Or do you want them to feel hopeful that there are concrete ways that they can address the issue?

    THE BRUTALLY HONEST GUIDE TO BEING BRUTALLY HONEST by Josh Tucker, SmartBlogger,Jan 30, 2019

Number 2. Check Your Motives is troublesome today.

  • Is it true? That is the question that started my questioning, i.e. what is the ‘truth’? How true are stories like the resurrection of Jesus? How true is what I’m writing going to be?
  • Is it necessary? I’m not sure about this answer, either. If I’m faithful to what I think I should be writing about this morning, I guess I believe what I’m being told to write it is necessary. On a personal level, I believe it is necessary for me to explore these ideas this morning. If I think this is only helpful for me, I probably won’t ‘publish’ this.
  • Is it kind or helpful? The main purpose of my writing is to try to address what I think of as spiritual poverty today. With many people turning away from ‘organized’ religious services, I wonder where they turn for their spiritual needs. So I hope this might be helpful to some.

My motives today are not to suggest anyone’s religious beliefs are wrong, or that they should accept my beliefs. I do think the way organized religions emphasize the literal interpretations of many religious stories drives people away.

One of the best parts about our Quaker spiritual practices are what we call the Queries. A set of questions we talk about together as a way to trigger how we are interpreting our beliefs. I think this is a good practice because it helps us think about our spiritual life. And is more engaging than many church services, which are more of a passive exercise, of listening to someone else’s sermon.

Here is an example of queries related to social and economic justice.

  • How are we beneficiaries of inequity and exploitation? How are we victims of inequity and exploitation? In what ways can we address these problems?
  • What can we do to improve the conditions in our correctional institutions and to address the mental and social problems of those confined there?
  • How can we improve our understanding of those who are driven to violence by subjection to racial, economic or political injustice? In what ways do we oppose prejudice and injustice based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, age, and physical, mental and emotional conditions? How would individuals benefit from a society that values everyone? How would society benefit?

This feels a little like I’ve been procrastinating the discussion of religious stories. I am feeling a bit cowardly because people have strong feelings about their beliefs, which is as it should be. Also, there are so many people I know who are much more knowledgeable about these subjects than I.

In one sense, as a medical professional, it is hard to believe a human body can come back from being dead for three days. But I’ve been involved in hundreds of resuscitations of babies whose hearts started to beat again. Who began to breathe on their own again. But that was after a very short time of arrest.

People might say the key thing in the above is human body, that the son of God was more than human.

I’ve believed religious stories were not necessarily to be viewed literally, but as illustrations of ideas.

More recently I’ve found what I’ve been learning about Indigenous spirituality very helpful. Again I’m just beginning to learn. And I don’t want to tread into the area of cultural appropriation.

I’ve read some beautiful creation stories that are further removed from human representations than the stories I grew up with. But in some ways seem even more true. Following is an excerpt from a story in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass.

Skywoman Falling

In winter, when the green earth lies resting beneath a blanket of snow,
this is the time for storytelling. The storytellers begin by calling upon
those who came before who passed the stories down to us, for we are
only messengers.

In the beginning there was the Skyworld.

She fell like a maple seed, pirouetting on an autumn breeze.* A column of

light streamed from a hole in the Skyworld, marking her path where only

darkness had been before. It took her a long time to fall. In fear, or maybe

hope, she clutched a bundle tightly in her hand.

Hurtling downward, she saw only dark water below. But in that

emptiness there were many eyes gazing up at the sudden shaft of light.

They saw there a small object, a mere dust mote in the beam. As it grew

closer, they could see that it was a woman, arms outstretched, long black

hair billowing behind as she spiraled toward them. (continues…)

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

In the end, I believe this is all about sharing stories.


From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

Returning to the items about being brutally honest above:

#6 be short and sweet, I might not have done so well on.
#7 stick to facts. Well there aren’t many facts here but that is basically what this was supposed to be about. The literal versus the story.
#8 conclude with a solution. This isn’t for me to tell you. The solution, for me, is to ask, and try to answer the right questions, like the queries above. And to be still and listen to my Inner Light.

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