We’re human and we lie. Even if we just tell a little white lie, it’s still a lie. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could trust anyone, and everyone told the truth?
Honesty is a quality sought after by many, achieved by most, hidden by some, and purposely lost by a few. There is an art to being honest. Too much becomes hurtful and too little leads to distrust. What is the right amount of honesty? What does it really mean to be honest with ourselves and with others?
Facing the truth even if it comes with pain
The rawness of true emotions are multiplied by honesty. Honesty forces us to face our fears and feelings. The fear of being betrayed, being alone, failing, growing old, and dying. Negative feelings such as hate for others, greed, disgust, guilt, inadequacy, sadness, and self loathing weigh us down. We have to confront our fears and negative feelings before we can overcome them. We have to be honest with ourselves first before we can become honest with others.
Being honest with our past to make changes in the present and create a better future
We’ve all done things in the past we’re not proud of. Some of us have even created false pasts in order to survive the present. No matter how much we want to forget them and leave them behind, we have to look back every once in a while to remember. We don’t have to wallow in misery and regret but we have to be honest about where we came from, what events happened in our past that shaped us, and the mistakes we’ve made. Regret has a purpose in our lives. It’s there to remind us of what WAS, and pushes us to change in preparation for what COULD BE. It prevents us from repeating our mistakes and ensuring a better future.
Honesty is a responsibility
Have you noticed the honesty of toddlers? They are unblemished by greed, malice, or opinion of others. They often remind us of what we lose in the process of growing up: innocence, joy in simple things, and honesty. They speak their minds without regard for what people would think, say, or do. We don’t have to act like toddlers and blurt out everything that comes to mind. We just need to appreciate their honesty. We need to encourage and foster it as they grow. It is our responsibility as adults to guide them in learning and maintaining the ability to be honest.
Keeping honesty a priority
As we grow older, we learn to filter and manipulate our words to mask our true intentions and feelings. We let the fear of being judged, disliked, and the loss of money dictate how honest we want to be with someone. We change our priorities in accordance with what we value as important at different points in our lives. Honesty gets lost in the mix of our ever changing priorities. How many times have we told a lie to our families or friends? We lie to family because we want to protect them or hide something from them. We want to spare them from grief or we want to spare ourselves from their contempt. We lie to friends for fear of losing their friendship. We lie in the workplace because we want to get ahead, get approval, obtain the promotion or avoid termination. Some people lie to hide their shortcomings and weaknesses. No matter what we currently deem number one on our list of priorities, honesty should be on top along with it. Any relationship without honesty is a falsity.
Honesty is synonymous with Integrity
Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say. Our word means nothing if we don’t back it up and follow through. It’s better to promise nothing than make promises we can’t keep.
Being honest and frank vs. being rude or crass
Honesty is great for building relationship and trust. Being frank is being sincere without being mean. It can save time, energy and unwanted emotions. A little bit of embarrassment and hurt now is better than a great deal of trouble later. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you have something on your face or in between your teeth at a party, or that you’re walking around with your shirt inside out at work? Wouldn’t you want someone to give you an honest evaluation of your job performance in order to improve? Being honest and frank are good qualities to have as long as we know where to draw the line.
Being rude or crass goes beyond honesty and frankness. Being crass means making insensitive and thoughtless remarks. Being rude means making overly offensive remarks. Being honest still requires us to give some thought to what we’re going to say before we say it. We have to make a conscious decision to use kinder words. If someone asked an opinion about his/her new hairstyle. Instead of saying “You look like a 70’s loser,” opt for “I like your previous hairstyle better” or “I like your hair shorter.” Being kind is better and it’s free. We should give it generously.
Being brutally honest should be an exception and not the norm
A good friend once told me “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it at all.” Some of us have been put in awkward positions in the past. An example is the feeling of being expected to comment on a new born baby’s appearance. It’s not stated but implied, the “ooohs and awwws” when a newborn is introduced to friends and family. I’ve observed this several times and it’s never failed. Someone will always say “Awww what a cute baby.” Every parent thinks their child is cute. Let’s face it, all babies are precious but not all babies are cute. Instead of saying something brutally honest that could hurt the parents’ feelings, we can say “How precious!” Better yet, don’t say anything at all.
The art of being honest takes effort and practice. We all start out honest, then it changes when we reach school age, especially during adolescence. Then it continues in adulthood. Our priorities and desires often influence the way we view honesty. But hope is not lost, we often re-acquire and refine it before we reach the prime of our lives. By that time, we would’ve realized that life is too short and we’re too old to lie about anything.
“If more people were honest, trust wouldn’t be so hard to come by, be given, or earned.” – TrinA, Life Lifter