In the past few weeks I have been fixated on the news and stories surrounding the world of USA Gymnastics. Like most of us, I have looked on with horror, disbelief, and heartbreak as well as a profound sense of admiration for the 156 women and girls - "the army of survivors" - who shared their victim impact statements and testified against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. I also cheered when Judge Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison and so matter-of-factly said, "It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You don't deserve to walk outside a prison ever again." Just yesterday, Nassar was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after a second sentencing hearing where more than 60 young women and teenagers read or presented victim impact statements.
Like many of us, I can't help thinking about the other people and organizations involved in this situation who were told or put on notice about Nassar's behavior and did nothing to stop it. Whether it was Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, or private training facilities, I am a huge proponent of the investigations that are and should be conducted as to how these entities and people - these enablers - ignored or mishandled the sexual assault complaints lodged against Nassar. It's chilling to realize that he could have been stopped decades ago.
Being a mother of three daughters the same age range as many of the women I watched testify, what stops me in my tracks are the victims and survivors who shared that they told their parents what was going on and, for whatever reason, their parents dismissed or minimized what their child was saying and did not advocate or did not advocate strongly enough to put a stop to Nassar's sick, destructive, abusive behavior.
Although, I would like to think that as a parent I would have listened and taken charge, and now there is no question that I would, 15 years ago when I was a newly divorced, single mother of three girls trying to juggle so many aspects of life, the truth is I don't know how I would have responded...And that haunts me. Doing a good deal of soul searching, I have been asking myself questions like:
- Would I have heard what my child was trying to tell me or trusted authority over age, made excuses for the accused, and belittled my child's understanding of the situation?
- In my zealousness to make my daughters into "strong, empowered" women and/or "to support their dreams," would I have minimized anything that sounded like "whining," "complaining," or "excuses" and encouraged them to barrel through any obstacles or keep their eye on the prize?
- Would I have downplayed, avoided, or not truly listened to what my daughter was telling me because I was more committed to working on a project, trying to nurture a relationship, wanting more time "to do me," or maintaining the status quo?
Bottom line, no matter what the reason, would I have denied, diminished, discredited, doubted, or dismissed what my child was telling me because it was… an inconvenient truth?
Although little compares with the horrific circumstances that happened in the Nassar situation, many of us grapple with inconvenient truths in our personal lives all of the time. Whether it is the business partner who wants to deny a colleague's questionable behavior because their net profits are increasing, the spouse that ignores their husband or wife deleting texts and hiding the code on their phone, the person that excuses unhealthy habits because the number on the scale is going down, or the baby boomer that doesn't want to compromise their freedom to take care of an aging parent, many of us turn a blind eye, especially to those inconvenient truths that we don't want to deal with. Denial is a powerful ally and negotiating tool when it comes to combating inconvenient truths.
In The Integrity Advantage, I talk about denial since it is a huge Integrity Snatcher. I write:
"Denial seems like a clever place to hide. It keeps us anchored in a seemingly safe harbor where everything is familiar. It may be a mess, but at least it feels familiar! When sheltered by denial, we often interpret threats and problems as benign or pretend that they don't exist. Like all blind spots, we can't see through our denial. It's insidious. But if we are going to live lives of integrity, we must confront our denial. We must recognize that denial keeps us blind to what is and limits our ability to find positive solutions and inspiring possibilities."
There is usually at least one area of our lives that we are willfully looking the other way, covering something up, suppressing that gnawing feeling inside, or denying an inconvenient truth. And as we are all seeing in stereo in the today's world, it only takes one situation in your life to ruin your entire life. That is why no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be, we all need to take time to listen, to pierce through the trance of denial, and to trust that if something is coming up, whether individually or collectively, it is coming up to be re-examined and dealt with.
In the end, denying inconvenient truths may be convenient in the short term but, more often than not, that behavior will never lead to long-term fulfillment. Instead it will chip away at our psyche, wanting and needing some attention, until it festers and causes an explosion in our lives.
Ultimately, as I grapple with this concept of inconvenient truths and where and how I have denied them, I feel incredibly grateful that I did not have to deal with the circumstances that the parents of the "army of survivors" did. Although I, like everyone, wishes this or any horrific, sick situation never happened, we know that they did and do. I am extraordinarily grateful to all these courageous women who spoke so bravely, authentically, and eloquently. Their words act as a reminder to all of us that there are the perpetrators and enablers, and we all need to look at how and where we are and have been that and what we can do differently.
I, for one, am looking at the stories I tell myself that drive me to want to turn a blind eye or deny a situation since it may be inconvenient to deal with at the time. I know that if I can unconceal and bust through those stories and understand that they are just that – stories I tell myself - then I have the power let go of that story and choose another interpretation for the situation that, instead of repelling me, will compel me to take positive action. Then I can go from imprisoned to empowered, meet whatever situation head on, and be the change I want to see in the world.
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Dwell in this conversation about inconvenient truths this week. As you take on this exploration, don't use what you find to beat yourself up. Look through the eyes of fascination and the perspective of promise.
(2) Look around your life. What are the situations or subjects that you have or that you are denying, diminishing, discrediting, doubting, or dismissing?
(3) As you find these situations or subjects, let yourself see the stories, beliefs, and fears that cause you to turn a blind eye, deny, and not deal.
(4) Spend some time journaling about what you get from your denial as well as what the costs of denial.
(5) Allow yourself to see what would be possible if you dealt with the situation head on.
(6) Create an action plan for dealing with your inconvenient truths.
(7) To step into your truth, ground yourself in the fundamentals of an integrity-guided life, and join a supportive online community, sign up for the very special and affordable program I created just for you - The Integrity Advantage Initiation Program. This 4-week online program starts Monday February 12th.