How honest are you with yourself and others?
I’ve always valued honesty. I used to think I have to be honest with all people at all times. Now, I think white lies are fine in certain circumstances. If I’m talking to a stranger and they ask me something that would require an in depth response, I will give them a white lie that’s close enough to the truth but not so true that I have to tell them my life story. Part of this is due to brevity; I can be an over-explainer by nature and sometimes people zone out.
A synonym for honesty is sincerity, which is defined as, “the virtue of one who communicates and acts in accordance with the entirety of their feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and desires in a manner that is honest and genuine,” according to An etymological dictionary of the English language. According to this definition, I think these white lies are sincere; I’m not acting outside of my Truth when I tell the server that my food was good when I really think it was fine but it reminded me of a time when I was really embarrassed, which made me feel emotionally troubled.
Personally, I think being honest with someone shows that person respect. I highly value giving and receiving earned respect, so it’s important to me to be honest to people.
Being honest with myself is more complicated. This is mostly because I have a hard time determining whether what I’m telling myself is true. For example, when I’m in a depression, a frequent story I tell myself is that I’m a loser. I’m very good at convincing myself that this is true in this state, but is it True? I could easily argue that this is me showing respect for myself because if it’s true, knowing this will help me change. If it isn’t true, then I really need to work on self-respect.
I think it’s a little bit of both. Our shadows, i.e. negative self-talk and/or actions, exist to protect us. If I am a loser, this shadow is helping me by pointing out maybe negative things I can change to become a better person, therefore protecting me from future embarrassment and shame. On the other hand, it’s mean. When I have this kind of negative self-talk, I’m being truly mean to myself and that is not respectful.
In case you do this kind of thing, too, therapists and self-help books say the best thing to do with these thoughts is to thank the thought for trying to protect you and that you’re ok now. One idea is that it’s your inner child, so think about how you would talk to that child. I would, and probably should, say something like this: “Thank you for trying to protect me from embarrassment, and I’m old enough now to no longer need your advice.” Or something. What I do do instead is argue with the thought: “I’m not a loser. I’ve accomplished a lot, look at how not loser-y I am.” This is a waste of time and energy because I’m arguing with my belief. I’ll never win.
I do still value honesty and I want to be honest with myself. Recently, I was listening to the 12 Questions Podcast and thinking about who I might need or want to make amends to. I could only think of one person who I definitely treated badly due to my drinking, but I did consider three others who I’m not sure about. Do I need to make amends to someone who I made a fool of myself in front of? What about someone who didn’t treat me well and then I did something that I feel ashamed of? This is where I’m not sure how to be honest. What if I don’t remember what I did?
I think making amends is the greatest form of honesty. It requires someone to really look Truth in the face about their behavior and then act on it. I know I need to make amends to myself but I’m struggling with how. I’ve done a lot to change my behaviors, especially those that have made me feel shame. Perhaps this is the amends I need, the sincerity and therefore the action, to make to myself, but I also need to forgive myself for these things. I guess that’s a different step.
How do you feel about honesty? How honest are you? Let us know in the comments, below.