I worked at an Amazon warehouse when I was twenty-one, I’d just come back from the mission field, and I was rather miserable. First, I did not want to be in Texas and secondly, I had made so many good friends, but they were from all over the world, making it unlikely I would keep most of them. (I’ll share more stories about my travels later.) While at Amazon I was growing as a person, I was saying no more often, I was learning to take care of myself and my emotions. And I read the life changing book, Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. If I was serious about what I read, I would have to practice it. I reasoned, I don’t really care about these people at work, and if I say no, it’s not really a big risk. So, I decided to practice setting boundaries with people I wasn’t really invested in having deep relationships with.
I said to one lady I worked with, let’s call her Ashely, “I need you to ask about me when we talk at the beginning of the shift. Sometimes you only talk about you.” This request was difficult to make but necessary. Every time I saw her all she did was talk about herself and it made me angry. I felt ignored and unimportant. I also told Ashley the truth because avoiding her wasn’t an option. She’d seek me out because I was a good listener. After telling her the truth I was relieved, it felt good to be honest and she didn’t react badly in the moment.
Ironically, I was secretly hoping this meant that our “Work friendship” was over and I was at peace with that, being a loner by nature. Instead, she asked how I was before sharing about her personal life and I found that our professional relationship grew into one that was more enjoyable for both of us. One day Ashely was sharing about something she was passionate about as we walked together, suddenly she paused though and looked at me.
“Sorry am I sharing too much about myself?” Ashley asked.
I smiled at her and said, “No, I’m just listening intently, keep going.”
That moment was felt miraculous, and it happened because I practiced truth-telling. I spoke so many truths while at Amazon. I told my supervisor I was upset with the way he treated a coworker, I told one guy to stop texting me because I was uncomfortable, I told another co-worker “no” when he asked for my number—I learned my lesson from the first creepy guy.
What I never realized was that speaking the truth helped me be a better person, but it also helped those around me see themselves more clearly. Ashley wasn’t aware that she only talked about herself because no one had pointed it out to her. The purpose of the truth is not to harm people, but the tough reality is that it does sometimes hurt them, briefly. My counselor once told me that the truth is a knife, it can be used to do surgery on someone, or it can be used to inflict wounds. This is a principle I’ve tried to live out in my life with some success–It’s not easy! But worth it. Though my intentions were to push people away, it drew people in. I think that was God’s plan all along (He’s crafty like that).