If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
C. S. Lewis
I don’t remember when or how I found this quote, only that when I did something in me was so intrigued that I spent days pondering it. What was this difference between truth and comfort? What did C. S. Lewis mean by getting “soft soap and wishful thinking”? Was I bathing in some milky, swirling goo, my eyes hazily cast upon some dreamy future?
I guess what intrigued me so much was that the answer was yes, this was exactly what I was doing. And the realization came when I had just begun therapy and was starting to shift my weight to facing my truth: All of your life has been a lie.
Now I know, it’s a bit melodramatic. (And please don’t picture me now as some purple-haired, cat-eyed teenage girl fingering a razor-blade, threatening my parents that I’ll end it all. That is not me.) But most of my life had been a lie, because most of my life had orbited around one singular momentous “truth” about who I was that I clutched like Frodo with the Ring to his chest. And this “truth” was not holding up anymore. Really, it hadn’t for a long time.
I won’t tell you what it was. That’s for me alone. (Sorry for the build-up.) I can tell you, though, that the “truth” was the heart of my neurosis. (Don’t picture me now as the girl always wearing the same pants who never brushes her hair and sketches cats all day long. That’s closer, but still not me.) What the “truth” did for me was offer me a tidbit (okay, a full-helping) of comfort, but also drifted me away from reality. And the reality was pain, a pain that began to flesh together when I was only a baby, and that I needed a medicine for.
So living with this thing, now called a comfort because it was never actually true, did provide me with soft soap, and even more so wishful thinking. It made me feel good. It was creamy and luscious and glittering with potential. But underneath the magical comfort was a deep darkness, boiling and thrashing: the real truth that I of course still held inside me.
And this is something we all do. Maybe not all of us to the point where we can’t tell the difference between real life and our medicines (me!). But we all shy away from the truth, because truth always brings pain. Truth is unrelenting; it is not compassionate or gentle. It is brutal because it only comes in one form: exactly as it is.
And some of us need that comfort to start, like I did. We instinctively know that taking in the truth would break us. But even after we no longer need it, the fuzzy lure of comfort still outweighs the necessity of truth. And it is necessary. That’s what I learned from Mr. Lewis.
Since I began my acceptance of the truth, I have come to the point where I find seconds, minutes even of genuine comfort. The wonderful “soft soap and wishful thinking” did its job when I was a child, but eventually things change, and the effect will wear off. And that is the moment we are called to cast away the comfort and trudge into the mud of truth.
Because the truth will never change, and it certainly will never go away. And we are inherently creatures after the truth. No matter how many sugary coffees you down, nothing will sweeten the acidic nature of a truth unacknowledged.
So let this be a call for you to seek your truth festering underneath the cushion of comfort you’re reclining in. You know if this is you. Don’t cling to the comfort. Put on your warpaint, and unleash the truth. Only then true comfort, or rather happiness, may follow.