Tag Archives: honor

Studies in trust

For me, trust is everything, and it’s also something I find very difficult. It’s not especially the issues of practical trust – will people do what they said they’d do? I’m able to roll easily enough with the natural forgetting and error that is part of life for all of us. The critical balance for me lies around the trust-truth-acceptance dynamic.

Part of my problem is that I’ve been sorely messed about by people who were not truthful, and who did not accept me. Pressure to change, and rejection of how I am as a person whilst wanting either my body or my utility, having been reoccurring themes. I’ve learned a lot about how not to get caught up in that, and am doing better, but the legacy of it remains.

I find it really hard to trust people in any way. Most especially I find it hard to trust that I will be accepted. I am easily persuaded that silence equates to rejection, when probably it doesn’t. I tend to assume that my emotional openness will be unwelcome, and as a consequence I am less honest than I could be. I undermine the trust-truth-acceptance dynamic every time I lie by omission to someone I care about. Most often the thing I lie about in this way, is exactly how much I care. It says a lot about some of the people in my history that I have learned to be fearful around this one, and to feel that saying ‘you really matter to me’ is likely to cause affront.

It is so easy to cart victim/survivor status about, letting things that have happened in the past define what I do now and how I see the world. Holding the belief that I will not be acceptable and should not be emotionally open is actually a safe space, a cheat. If I stay in that view, I need take no emotional risks. I do not have to be vulnerable for anyone, or face my fears of rejection, or deal with the complexities of how other people feel and what they need. The more carefully closed I am, the less likely I am to invite emotional honesty and trust from anyone else, either.

Last year I ended up on my knees at one point, utterly convinced that how I am is fundamentally toxic to other people and that I should batten it all down and hide it as much as possible. It’s taken me a long time to think this through. Is it fair or reasonable to base all future relationship judgements on the words of one person? Is it fair to the other people who are in my life, or who come into my life, to assume that they will all, without exception think and feel in this way? Clearly they don’t. My husband Tom is an ongoing source of affirmation that I’m not some monstrosity that should be hidden away. Other versions of how I am perceived are available and I can choose which story to trust.

The bottom line in terms of why I find it so hard to trust other people, is that I do not trust myself. The reason I do not trust myself is that a very small number of people, half a dozen or so across my life, have really gone to some lengths to undermine my confidence. I know in some cases it wasn’t even personal, it’s how they treat everyone. In other cases its likely a consequence of being lost and messed up themselves. I realise that only if I can learn how to trust myself, to trust my judgement, my honour and my integrity, then I will be far less at the mercy of the people who want to take me down for the hell of it, and far more able to be open to those who might genuinely accept me as I am.

Honourable relationship

There is a certain irony to the fact that the people who taught me most about the theory of honourable relationship were not able to live it when the crunch time came. To be human is to be flawed, and the ideals we hold up are not always the things that drive us in our choices. I tend to feel that what we do in crisis is the best measure of who we really are. It’s easy to walk your talk when life is simple and straightforward. When there is pain and fear, when we are hurt, lost, threatened, walking the talk is harder. It’s easy to treat honourably those people who are nice to be around, but what does it take to act honourably in the face of something more challenging?

I kick this sort of issue around a lot. I feel very strongly the need to try and act as well as I can in all things, but I find myself questioning what that even means in the first place. Let’s take honesty as an issue. Outright lies we can put to one side, but most lies are lies of omission. Exactly how much honesty does another person need from me? The truth about a number of things – my history and mental state especially, are not comfortable to have to deal with, so for the greater part I’m not honest about that. I hide it, take it away, or handle it indirectly in less alarming ways. For casual acquaintances, that seems appropriate, fair and workable, sparing them a lot of needless hassle and me the shame and distress of baring that which hurts most.

Then there are the small number of people who I spend enough time with to make it difficult to fake functionality. People who are going to see what happens when body, mind or both cease to be fully operational. Then what? Better, perhaps to have warned them in advance so that it isn’t surprising. Part of me still wants to hide it, to simply not have those closer friendships in the first place so that I do not have to deal with the things I feel uncomfortable about. Which is a bloody awful way to feel. I have a very close, open and trusting relationship with my bloke, and for the greater part that gives me what I need. But, to cut myself off from others, to hold a protective line rather than face the things I am embarrassed by and uneasy about… that doesn’t feel honourable or good to me. Then of course, exposure to me as I am, intense, complicated, still carrying too much pain and fear… that isn’t easy to take and I know not everyone will feel they can cope with that or want it in their lives, so every exposure is a risk of rejection, and leaves me feeling vulnerable. But it is fairer to let people choose, rather than letting them get dependent on me or fond of me only to find that I am, in practice, unbearable.

One of the things I struggle with is that I am not responsible for how other people feel or what they do. I am not obliged to be convenient and comfortable, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. No sane person is going to expect me to magically know what the best thing I could do for everyone, all of the time, is, and expect me to also do it. I’ve removed from my life the people who seemed to hold such expectations, because it’s impossible. I’d have to be superhuman, and I most assuredly am not. All I can do is the best I can come up with, given the realities of who and how I am, and what I have to deal with. What I need to learn to do, I suspect, is to apologise for that less, and to accept that some people will indeed walk away if I am too difficult. It is ok to let them go. I do not owe them anything.

I have come to a point of recognising that my energy is finite, and often not sufficient for the things I want to achieve. I cannot afford to spend more time trying to pretend to be things I am not in the hopes of not inconveniencing people. That often exhausts me, and means I push beyond safe limits, leaving me vulnerable to depression. Not a clever move. So, I’ll accept the trade off, I’ll do what I have to do, and try to be more honest about when I’m not functioning. Other people are responsible for how they respond to that. I would not shame someone else for being ill, tired or damaged, I will not allow myself to be shamed on those terms either. Well, it’s a theory at any rate. I can but try.

Sweet little lies

My son has a tremendous interest in ethical questions. He’s particularly fascinated by the ethics of lying, such that this has been a significant topic of conversation lately. Now, the simple answer here is that lying is unethical. But of course there’s the line ‘If Hitler is at the front door and Anne Frank in the attic’. There are times when the only honourable thing to do is to lie. There are many people who lived and escaped persecution only because someone hid them and lied for them. Everyone who helped a Jewish person flee the Nazis. Any movement that resists oppression and tyranny depends on subterfuge to some degree. The underground railroad. When the state itself becomes evil, following the law is not the most honourable choice.

Most of us will not find ourselves in a Hitler/Anne Frank scenario. I hope. But every day presents us with opportunities to be more or less honest. Lies by omission are common. The things we let slide, don’t mention. The little injustices we allow to pass unchallenged. The little mistakes we cover up. Most of the time, these don’t make a lot of odds in the grand scheme of things, but when they do, situations can suddenly run out of control and either you have to fess up, or their follows a process of having to tell more lies to hide the first one. Not a good place to be, not an honourable solution, and frequently, not something that allows for a fix. The person who can admit to a mistake has the space to learn, repair, improve. The person who denies ballsing things up cannot redeem themselves, and cannot learn. Appearing to be right, at the expense of actually being right, will cost you dearly in the long run, more often than not.

Then there are the lies we tell to spare someone’s feelings. The theory being that a lie to avoid pain is kinder. That is true sometimes, but at others, it sets people up for a fall. The person whose failings are not pointed out to them can have a seriously inflated self opinion, and sooner or later will run into a bit of reality, and find they aren’t the best novelist who ever lived, after all. I gather current TV shows frequently make ‘entertainment’ by laughing at people who think they’re far better than they really are. The kinder thing to do would have been to point it out sooner. Thinking you are something, and finding you are not, can be far more traumatic than dealing with the truth early on. And again, there’s scope to change. If someone points out where you are failing, you can learn, improve, become what you want to be. The person who wrongly believes they know it already is being denied all kinds of opportunities to really achieve.

There are the lies of convenience. Most people, when they ask how you are, want a short, reassuring answer. It can be tempting to give that. I spent years lying to everyone around me, by saying  ‘a bit tired’ ‘just a bit under the weather’ when I visibly wasn’t ok, rather than saying what was going on. I did it to spare the people around me, and I did it to protect the person who was depriving me of sleep, undermining my self-esteem and abusing my body. Crazy. But like a lot of women in my situation, I didn’t want to face up to the implications of what was happening to me. Easier to blame myself, than the father of my child. Had I spoken the truth, someone could have pointed out to me that things were not ok. I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone thinking ill of my ex back then. And I also wondered if people would just agree with him, that it was my fault for being too demanding, too emotional, too… whatever it was that week.

When I started being honest about what had happened, I found warmth and support. I found versions of me that weren’t deemed useless, ridiculous, over reacting and unreasonable. I was told that the things I felt, wanted, needed, were the least a human should have. I wish I had dared to trust sooner.

One of the things I learned from this, is that if you consider yourself to be an honourable person and do not feel safe in being honest, it is time to question the situation you are in. It may not be Hitler at the door, but something external is quite probably awry. If you have a mindset that leans towards taking on responsibility, then it can be easy to internalise blame, to carry things that are not yours, and so forth. When honesty feels dangerous, there is serious work to do, somewhere.

The decision to lie should never been taken lightly. If it’s to avoid inconvenience, or for some other short term gain, it’s worth weighing up what the bigger picture looks like and what the ultimate cost might be. Difficult truth can be handled with tact and care. Mistakes need to be owned. And if it’s not safe to be honest, start thinking about an exit strategy.

For myself, I’d rather tell the truth as far as is humanly possible, come what may. But I do not currently have an attic, much less any Jewish girls depending on me for their lives. In that scenario, you can bet I’d be lying my ass off.

Of service and community

Nothing brings a person’s true nature to the fore like hard times and conflict. In difficulty, we see who is motivated by integrity and who puts ego first. We see who the peacemakers are, who the honourable warriors are, and who is all piss and wind. We see the control freaks, the fearful, the vindictive and the bloody stupid. All that is best, and worst in people tends to show up in the hard times.

Communities are difficult things. When two or more druids are gathered together, there will be disagreements. There will be personality clashes. There will be visions of how the world works that cannot ever be reconciled. This does not mean we can only hope to be groves of one, it means we need to work, and we need to have good and honourable intentions. This comes back to what I was saying recently about facilitating, rather than leading. A facilitator is not running something to massage their ego. A facilitator does what needs doing. A leader, on the other hand, will blithely do things that are not in the interests of their community, for the sake of themselves.

Bards of the Lost Forest had a core of three whose world views were not compatible. We made a strength of it, because it meant that there could be no core dogma, nothing others had to fall into line with. We accepted the different perspectives, and all was well. This was easy because we were collectively there to run an event, not to be important.

I’ve had a lot of experience of organising things over the last decade, and spent a fair amount of time in the company of other people who organise things. If you want it to go well, you have to be doing it for the love of the thing, and not for the desire to look good or be important.

It is difficult when the druid community has an occasion for collective shame. The last thing I want to do is stand up in public and draw attention to these moments. But at the same time, we should cast our eyes in the direction of the Catholic Church and child abuse, to remind ourselves what happens when we pretend not to see. To the best of my knowledge, we aren’t on that scale, and I pray we never will be. But in the meantime, we should not accept any kind of leadership that exists to serve the ego of the individual and not the good of the community.

I’ve been in conflict situations before now. I’ve had to consider what I needed, and balance that against what was going on in a wider context. I had a thorough stabbing in the back from people in my folk club, many years ago. I know what it’s like to be put in an unworkable position. While I did what I had to do to make things viable for me, I also kept my folk club going. I did not let my community down, but I did have some people leave it – their choice, not mine. Often, there are no perfect solutions to these things, but a bit of thought and care for the consequences and some attention to timing and detail goes a long way. I’ve found myself in conflict situations on the druid side too, times when public venting of anger and resentment might have made me feel a lot better, but could have caused untold harm to others. I’m proud to say that I didn’t do what I might have done.

People can, and will vote with their feet when they find themselves encountering ego and bullshit. To those of you who undertake to run things I would say, you are there to serve. If you aren’t there to serve, do not expect support.

To those many of you, facilitators and participants, who are doing what honour demands – in whatever form that takes – who are acting out of care and integrity, I salute you. Hang on in there. You represent the very best of what druidry is, and there are a lot of you.  More than enough to carry the day, to find the good, to make something worth having.


I’m not commenting specifically on Druid Camp, of course, having no direct involvement. I wish peace and the best of luck to those people trying to make a go of it, and have every sympathy for those who have felt obliged to step back.