There must be a hundred film clips with one-line ‘zingers’ stuck in my head. Anyone who watches movies (on any platform) knows what I mean. You hear an actor give a line that totally captures not only that moment in the film, but also your own experience. Whatever’s sparking emotion for you in life right then: happy, sad, disgusted, stunned, horrified, betrayed. When an actor nails it with a one-liner I can relate to, I hear myself saying, “Yup – that’s it, right there.” Zingers stay in my memory because they feel like shared experience (delivered by skilled writers). But also because they touch a deeper part of me: my craving for sincerity and authenticity in daily life. A lot of us are craving honesty and The Truth — especially about topics that really matter. But – what to do when The Truth seems out of reach or manipulated beyond comprehension? Staying mindful of our own core values and knowledge about ourselves can bring clarity.
Memorable movie lines often say what I can’t. Or don’t feel smart — or quick enough — to pull off. Going through a break-up with a fickle lover? Rhett Butler’s (“Gone With The Wind”) line Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! is beyond perfect. Later days! Seeya! Jog-on, dude! Feeling like a stranger in a strange land? Dorothy (“The Wizard of Oz”), having just crashed her house in Munchkin Land says to her dog Toto, We’re (clearly!) not in Kansas anymore. In a new situation, feeling afraid, can morph into pure amazement. IF I can stay open to new experience. One of my all-time fav-relatables is from “The Godfather”. The Don says, Make him an offer he can’t refuse. Full transparency: when I was in Management that line (and desire for control of a situation) came into mind, and into play, more than once. (Sometimes I was on the receiving end of ‘the offer’.)
Lately, with all of the ‘stuff’ happening in our world, a classic line from 1992’s “A Few Good Men” has been barking in my head (watch the clip, you’ll see what I mean from actor Jack Nicholson). Via the media – all media – the discouraging news is that we (here in the U.S.) are hunkered-down in our mental silos. Pick a topic: political theater; Covid; climate change; conspiracies; Brittney’s mental state; the Future of Everything. Our versions of The Truth are more polarized than ever. And I’m wondering just why that is. How did we get here and, more importantly, how do we move through this frustrating and dangerous time?
So in the movie “A Few Good Men”), Jack Nicholson plays Marine Commander Colonel Jessup. In a nutshell (no spoiler, no worries!), something very bad happens on Jessup’s base. The event explodes into a military courtroom. Jessup’s (Nicholson) reaction is to deflect while defending two marines accused of a heinous crime. One of the prosecutors (a very young Tom Cruise) keeps reminding the jury We need the Truth! about what happened. Nicholson’s famous line – as he smirks and snarls his way through it – is, The Truth??? You can’t handle The Truth!! Meaning: you think you want to know ‘how the sausage is made’, but you don’t Not really. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtpOtFIEkbs
How often do we ask for – even expect – The Truth about something, only to be smacked in the face with the realization, I didn’t really want to know that. TMI. Rewind, please. When asked for The Truth, how often do we deflect?
Some years back, feeling pretty enlightened about myself and my relationships, I followed a worrisome hunch about someone I was romantically involved with. I framed that awful question: Just tell me what’s going on (The Truth)? – I can handle it. He gave me his Truth, and it made me crazy. For days. We broke up. Even though he gave me details that saved me heartache down the road, it was rough.
Since that experience (and a few more similars), I’ve upgraded my process of seeking, and offering The Truth from, or to, others. Truth can appear subjective, even when the actual facts are known. The bravest people I know (the ones I’m always learning from) say, Don’t ask, if you don’t really want to know ! Wise words. Because one thing that living for 60+ years has taught me is that wanting to know what’s up doesn’t mean I’m going to hear what I want to hear. In emotionally-charged situations — where getting at The Truth is critical — the urge to deflect or tell half-truths is strong.
Even if I ask for, or optimistically expect truth-without-spin from someone or from some entity, I know that I may not get it. I have to accept that. But a big chunk of Living Bravely for me is about staying on the high road: being as honest as I can with others about my own motivations. I know that I tend to be too long-winded; part of why the ‘economy’ of words in movie one-liners appeals! But when I speak from my heart, my words are un-rehearsed and sincere. Even if what comes at me isn’t The Truth, I’ll always have a way of coping with that fact in positive ways.