Deeper Things Series–Week #1
Today’s post is about something that is simple to understand, but hard to give. And that is honesty.
When I started this blog, my desire was to share ideas and tips about how to live a simpler life. Helping others and creating a lively, productive community are two of the most important things we can do in life.
That is still my desire–to provide useful solutions for everyday problems. To help with the little things that need tweaking, or just flat-out drive us crazy! (You know what I’m talking about–your living room is never clutter-free, or your kids’ rooms are always disaster zones.) Simplifying our lives can improve those little things.
But I have another goal that I want to achieve with my writing. It helps with the simplifying process; it is a necessary part of it. But this goal also stands on its own, and flows into every aspect of my life. It is more important than any other reason I have for writing.
That goal is honesty. I seek to be honest with myself, and help you to be honest with yourself too.
Honesty is difficult to achieve. It’s like an onion–lots of layers. Once you think you’ve achieved it, you peel back another part of yourself and discover that you have to start all over again.
Honesty Is Just Telling The Truth–Right?
We equate honesty to telling the truth. Or, in another way of speaking, honesty is not telling a lie. But there’s so much more to it than the absence of a blatant falsehood. To be truly honest, I have to ask myself, “Am I comfortable with who I am when I do (fill in the blank)?” In other words, in any given situation, is my approach the right thing to do?
Honesty is the ability to face yourself, even your ugly side, and see it for what it is. And honesty is also the ability to tell yourself, “I am wrong. I need to change.”
With my kids: do I tell them the truth when I fail? Or do I gloss it over, and pretend that I am an all-knowing authority figure, never to be questioned? Honesty.
With my spouse: do I find ways to share with him when I am hurt? Do I find a constructive, direct way to tell him when I am angry? Or do I bottle, and bottle, and bottle, until I’m lost in resentment and can’t see what I ever liked about him? Which approach is more truthful–and will I choose the better path? Honesty.
With my work ethic: do I look for ways to get out of doing my job? For me, this is most difficult around the house. I do. Not. Like. Cleaning. I have to take a hard look at myself and say, “Am I really too busy to do that today? Or am I making an excuse because it makes me cringe to do that?” Am I being truthful about what I can accomplish that day? Honesty.
I love the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. The thrust of the story is value. Is it more valuable to be shiny, and attractive, and new–impressive on the outside? Or is it more worthwhile to have integrity–to be real on the inside?
When I was a little kid, I never knew how to fake it. I didn’t understand why some kids would act a certain way with one set of people, then act differently with another set. Polite to your face, then rude behind your back. I saw a lot of people putting on plastic faces–or maybe just conforming to social norms. I could never tell the difference. And maybe, sometimes there is no difference. Movies, media, and our peers tell us to act certain ways so we can fit in. We learn the ropes so we can be successful and have friends. We pretend to feel certain ways so as not to betray who we truly are.
Sometimes you need to put on your game face, this much is true. In the most important interview of your career, you want to exude success and confidence. That’s not dishonesty, per se; that’s courage. And there’s certainly no need to share every fear, hope, and secret with every person you meet! A certain amount of reserve is a good thing.
But, here’s the problem.
When we act like everything is fine and we’re in control all the time, all we’re really doing is wearing a mask. Nobody is in always in control. Nobody gets it right 100% of the time. We’re not being honest with ourselves. And when we act this way, people don’t really know who we are. They don’t know what we struggle with, what aches and hurts we carry around with us, or our strengths. We create this barrier between ourselves and others; and they do the same with us. A lack of honesty is a hindrance to community, and to real relationships.
Why Is It So Hard?
Being honest is really, really hard. The reason we lack honesty, I feel, is twofold. First, we’re held back by a sense of pride. We don’t want to admit it to ourselves when we mess up. When you are honest about your flaws, it is very humbling. But that humility, and that transparency, they help you grow.
Second, we fear judgment from others. And it is true–being honest can incur judgmental reactions from other people. But when we truly stop to think about it, isn’t that judgment misplaced? Don’t those people also have their own flaws to deal with?
In the end, there’s nothing really to fear.
It is difficult. It feels threatening. But seeing yourself for who you really are–it is worth the pain and sweat it takes to get there. And you can never, ever grow to your full potential, if you can’t see what your flaws are.
I like how Billy Joel put it: “Honesty is such a lonely word.” It’s hard to find a truly honest person. It is rare to meet someone who is really in touch with who they are and what they’ve done. And is actively working to change it.
Today, and for the rest of my life, I want to be that person. I want honesty to be something that characterizes who I am. I want to be real.
And this is what I want for you, too. Let’s choose to be real. Real with our kids. Real with our husbands and wives. Real with the people who intimidate us. Just be the same person, wherever you go. Be who you are, and work on your flaws. And strive to be a better person today than you were yesterday.
Let’s do it together.
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