Saturday, November 23, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 23, 2019 - Radical Honesty

What does it take to be honest? I mean genuine, 100 percent, truth-telling honesty as a daily life practice. Do we recognize how often we are even slightly dishonest? One study found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies. Women were more likely to lie in order to make someone else feel good, while men lied to make themselves look good.

That gender disparity aside, for there is far too much to unpack here in that alone, let’s consider what it would take to be completely honest for that 10-minute conversation. The short answer is: practice. Primarily, self-awareness is the key. We need lots of practice to be self-aware about what we say and why we say it.

In scripture it is said that it’s not what goes into someone’s mouth which defiles them, it’s what comes out of it. How often do we think we are doing the “right thing” by fibbing or bending the truth, even in the interest of sparing someone’s feelings? I would argue that sometimes it is the right thing to do, but it’s a slippery slope. It’s very easy to justify a “white lie” when it comes to getting a birthday present we’re not so in love with, or when your wife asks you if her pants make her look fat. Being kind is always the preferred action. Temper honesty with compassion. Fib about the pants and then go get a gym membership together.

But beware, that talent to justify our untruths can bleed over into areas where we lie because it’s easier to lie when the truth, while perhaps more difficult than fibbing, is better for the situation. There’s a difference between lying and deceiving, for instance. Though the distinction may be small, it is an ethical choice overall.

If someone asks you your opinion on something, chances are it’s best to give them your honest opinion. They have asked for it, after all. But again, kindness is preferable. Don’t just drop the truth on them without concern for how it will affect them. Find a way to be fully honest without devastating them, if possible.

Yet there are times when people need a good “come to Jesus” moment, as they say. These truths are more in line with an intervention than anything else. They represent a truth which, in the best interest of the person, must be told. A recognition of an addiction problem that has gone too far or a health crisis in the making. These are truths which should be diplomatic and carefully thought out, but unvarnished nonetheless. Your love is your honesty. Speak in love. Even if tough love is what’s being called for.

Typically, I’d advise beginning with oneself when starting a new life practice. But when it comes to honesty, it’s even harder to be honest with ourselves than it is with others. So self-honesty will have to take a back seat for a while as we practice it on other people first. But the good news is that once we start being truly honest with others, self-honesty will occur on its own. You might not like all that you discover, however. But it will be okay. You will get through it. Remain steadfast and it will change your life for the better in ways that you never dreamed.

Listen to the words you use when you talk. Do you exaggerate? Try to reign it in a bit. Do you fib to make others feel better? See if there are ways to make people feel good while also being honest. Do you stretch the truth to make yourself look good? Wonder why that is so. What’s so bad about being honest about our own shortcomings, weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Provided that it’s safe to do so, for some of the more unscrupulous may use it against you, why not just admit our truth?

The truth will set you free. But that freedom comes with responsibility. We have to decide how to be honest while also causing no harm. Truth is meant to empower, not destroy. No real decision can be made without understanding all the options as they truthfully exist. Arm others with truth even when it’s difficult. Otherwise, the relationship is built upon sand and will only last so long as the lie is perpetuated. Eventually something is going to hit the fan and it won’t be pretty.

It isn’t easy to do, but try anyway. Listen to yourself and be radically curious about why you say the things you say. Is it to make your life easier, or better? Easy isn’t always so good, but better at least represents progress. Shoot for that when shooting from the hip. It’s pretty radical to be honest these days, but it’s key to the most fulfilling life possible. And, in all honesty, you deserve that.

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