I have recently committed to a path of Honesty. This may sound easy to many on first read, but rigorous honesty is something entirely different than, “I don’t steal from my employer’s till” or, “I don’t tell bald-faced lies, or at least not that much, or only when it doesn’t matter.” It means no longer telling any lies, even those by omission – and excavating where I’ve been lying while lying to myself by not admitting I was doing so.
Deeper still, honesty to me means no longer accepting the tacit bargains of codependency and hardened hearts. It means being present in the moment (this is hard); it means caring about the other party involved in a way almost transcendant. It means risking hearing the other person’s response when I speak up with things previously unsaid. It means no longer lying to myself that omitting information isn’t dishonesty – when it really is.
Relevant to the last few days, I have committed to being honest about my thoughts and feelings with my friends – specifically when something they do hurts me or affects me adversely. Everyone is different, and some people (though I suspect, not so many) do not have this difficulty in their relationships; however, I historically have. What I have typically done in the past is either held my feelings inside (and thus developed either resentment or anxiety, or both) and/or perhaps committed to avoiding or turning off to these people – cutting off or curtailing friendship. I’ve often thought a version, a lie really, not so specifically spoken, of “easy come easy go”. It has been my softer, more cowardly way to let go of a possible intimacy than do the scary work of growth.
You can imagine how hard it is to live this way with husband and children. I’ve caused a lot of suffering for them and myself.
And finally, I am of course of severely diminished use to anyone else – everyone else – when I live this way.
Yes; when I live this way, growing active cultures of Anxiety and Resentment, I become Fearful and Angry. I don’t necessarily complain too vociferously to other people about the party who hurt me; but of course I have spoken evil about individuals. I regret this as these behaviors accomplished nothing good. I don’t want to do this any more.
My avoidance tendencies and my responses due to deep-seated fear of being cut off (from affection, mostly) were developed and perfected over a period of many years, as a result of my upbringing and as a survival mechanism. While understandable responses as a child, I have spent years parcelling my mind, heart, and spirit into ever more narrow and frightened spaces. I’ve outgrown the usefulness of these strategies and they now hurt deeply – and not just me.
So I am honest now – to the best of my abilities – and it is not at all the freeing experience one who hasn’t committed to fully might guess. It is quite terrifying. Implicit in telling someone, “Ouch, that hurt” is every single Boogeyman that kept me from saying it for years. The possible responses: “See you later, I don’t need this shit”, “Come on, you’re making a big deal of nothing!”, or “Well now that you’ve opened the floodgates let me tell YOU just what I think about YOU!” – exactly the results I’d feared so much and for so long. It risks everything I hadn’t been willing to risk before – all this at a time in my life, now, where I am learning to cope with life on life’s terms; without the evening cocktail to obliterate the pain.
See, telling someone I’m hurt is the opposite of a Control thing; no, Control was what I’d tried to maintain earlier by my dishonesty. Speaking aloud these truths is not done to secure a friend’s future behavior nor demand anything in particular from them, but to be honest about who I am – today – and what I think and feel. I don’t require people change, and I could not force this result even if I wished to; to the best of my ability I merely tell them in as direct and brief a way possible (seriously, like one sentence) what they did and that it hurt. Then I wait to see how they respond.
Turns out, so far, some people don’t like this kind of honesty much. Most recently, someone I care for very much literally stomped out of my house. I won’t write down the things this person was quite quick to talk over me and claim about my character, but they were many and they weren’t complimentary.
After the person left it felt so tempting and familiar to think of attempts to “take it back” – to apologize if I hurt their feelings – to diminish what I said as if one or two sentences were too much for me to claim. But I can’t apologize for other people’s experiences (or feelings). And at the same time I am brave enough to be honest, I realize there is no friendship I absolutely need – there are many I want to keep, if possible. What I need is to love others unconditionally, and to instantly forgive them when they wrong me – even if they never apologize.
I am no longer going to deal the way I used to with those who respond poorly to me; even those who outright try to hurt me. I can’t afford to hold a grudge or cut them off from my thoughts and prayers.
The one time in my life, that I can remember, that I earnestly wished for death – I sat in an AA meeting in early sobriety and even my final barrier, that I could never physically destroy my body for the pain it would cause my children, in that moment even that barrier was removed – a man shared and at one point he said, “No one owes you a goddamned thing for getting sober.”
His words were like freshets of water and they give me strength now.
But, unlike the words of my mentor and virtual life coach Dalton – I find pain, really, does hurt.
this whole honesty thing – i’ve been finding myself more and more unwilling to be silent or apologetic for my own truth and it is scary as hell!
i totally agree about the control thing – being radically honest is about releasing control and how that interaction will play out and totally not about trying to force others into being what/whoever they think i want them to be – it is simply about my truth and my boundaries.
i have also found that if i would have tried to obtain this level of honesty say in my mid-twenty’s i would have been a total bitch about it – blaming and shaming while sharing my truth – it would have been terribly unhealthly so i’m glad i didn’t get to this honesty place until i was in this space of kindess, gentleness, and faith that we are all doing our best even when that ‘best’ isn’t good enough – make sense?
my husband actually suggested moving back in when he realized i am liking moving out of the house and into a little rental that may end up being in a sketchy neighborhood – and while i appreciate where he thinks he’s coming from – i had to stay in that honestly and say no – had to tell him as much as we may like to think we may be to ‘fix’ our marriage and while we both admit to still feeling love for each other – we are still existing in the same unhealthy paradigm that drove us apart and climbing back onto that trainwreck is NOT an option – at least for me and the kids!
you’re rocking ur honestly btw <3
As for the honesty, I feel like I’ve had some of the opposite problem – I’m severely opinionated, stubborn, overly honest. People have told me for my whole life that “you don’t need to say THAT much.” “Keep some of what you’re thinking/feeling to yourself.” “Be more diplomatic.”
Regardless, I have a handful of AMAZING friends (and I’m not talking about the facebook, casual acquaintance kind…but the kind that will fly halfway around the world when called upon) – none of whom I have been in less than a few major, harrowing, friendship-risking fights with. One of them lived 5 blocks from me and we didn’t speak for over a year…though now we have a four hour phone conversation once or twice a week because she’s so far away. It kind of sucks. People make jokes about it – as if my friendship with a new person hasn’t really been tested yet until there’s been an all-out verbal brawl. I manage to cause drama with the nicest, most soft-spoken, non-violent people…because I can never keep my mouth shut when something causes a mental or emotional tick. My life has been a constant battle to find some kind of filter for this but also to reconcile that this behavior is part of who I am and there have been an equal amount of positive benefits to it…though the heartache and frustration is really one of the worst feelings in the world.
What you say is so true: “I realize there is no friendship I absolutely need â€“ there are many I want to keep, if possible.”
I’ve lost a couple with my madwoman big-mouthed personality. Surprisingly though, in the scope of things, I haven’t lost much at all. The few that walked away were the few that had no place around my kid, who weren’t able to reciprocate the friendship at all (but merely used it to get their own needs met) and none of them are people I miss or stay up nights worrying about. The most intense and stubborn grudges don’t seem to be able to last more than a year or so when the friendship is real.
There is also something that has happened when my honesty has actually resulted in some kind of clash (which even that is often avoided because most of my friends are much more open and diplomatic than myself and have some kind of skill for navigating the nutty waters of me) – and it’s akin to what happens in a compost bin. All that old shit gets turned round and round and it stinks and looks like nothing will ever come out of it…but the ground gets stirred up, the plants gets stronger and the flowering of the friendship becomes more beautiful. The people who have been able to meet me, to fully meet me without stepping back or being overly diplomatic to the point that they’ve given something up – those people who were willing to meet me in risking the friendship for something more important…we have something pretty incredible. Anyway…sometimes it’s not even about keeping the friendship, it’s about risking it all to take it to a deeper level.
Thanks so much for writing. I missed a few posts and need to go back – busy summer!
Reminds me of Eli Loker from one of my favorite shows (that FOX cancelled of course) Lie To Me. I think “radical honesty” is different from what you’re working toward, but it sounds just about as tough.
If it looks interesting to you, seasons 1 and 2 were on Netflix instant at one point. I watched them all so I haven’t checked back in a while to see if they are still there. It’s dramatized of course, but the science is based on Paul Eckman’s work.
I stumbled onto the show when I was doing research on how to become more observant. I found Eckman, which led me to the show. I ended up taking the online training for the real deal and learned that I could already read people. I just didn’t know how to put into words what I was seeing.
I did learn something interesting about myself though. When it comes to reading people, my weaknesses are Asian people and elderly people. I’m not sure why, but most of the time I failed to read every emotion on them with the exception of happiness. I think it has to do with eye shape and wrinkles.
I know this is only vaguely related to what you posted, but I thought you might find it interesting.
I’ve enjoyed reading the comments here. Thank you all for posting.
“radical honesty” is a movement I think or at least a way of living, different than “rigorous honesty”. In rigorous honesty I am responsible to myself and God first, others secondarily so (but I haven’t noticed a conflict yet). “Honesty” doesn’t mean lack of humility and compassion – for instance I don’t think I am allowed to say anything that pops to mind. Lots of prayer and talking with my sponsors in AA if I have a problem with someone, any problem. It’s working really well for me and it seems to be working for my family.
As for friends, today someone told me that being honest will weed out some friends. She said I’m better off with those who stay. I’m still chewing on this.
I think there’s always a way to be honest if only we can find it, and that sometimes finding the right way is the problem – we don’t know the way that will allow us to be both genuine and keep us from hurting people. It’s a difficult line to walk, especially with people we love. And then again sometimes the truth is always going to hurt but we’re all the better for hearing it/saying it.
I have a friend from college with whom this is always a problem – she wants advice but never really wants to hear an honest answer, only my affirmation that she’s on the right track. I have found it difficult to be honest with her because she tends to take everything extremely personally. And our friendship has been generally based on me rescuing her in some way (financially, emotionally, etc.) and being there to hear her tales of woe. But I have always been there for her when she needed me. Recently she sent me a text in response to a few messages I’d left her (asking how she was doing) which basically said,”I don’t want to deal with anyone right now, sorry.” I was hurt and thought about all the times that I’d been busy but put off my own stuff to listen to her drama. In the past I would have just let it go and maybe be resentful. This time I decided that I was going to just be honest. My reply was simply this: “Well, I’ve always been available for you.” It was a statement of fact, simple and irrefutable, and I think it was the best way to approach her. Will it “weed” her out? Maybe – we all hate to scrutinize ourselves as much as we hate for others to scrutinize us. Truth sometimes looks ugly. But at least I was honest with her. And she’ll probably get over herself – truth is often as much a catalyst for change as it is a symptom of it, as you’ve noted.
I think you’re right that if we keep it simple and if we keep it truthful we’re much less likely to be going astray. It’s those long long expositions/emails/text streams that have always done me and others harm.
The ability to tell someone that you’ve been hurt by them should be the easiest thing to do. If they value you then they will take this honesty, and allow you to discuss what is bothering you. Communication is the only way these things can happen.
When we were around each other in person frequently it was always hard to tell what was going on. For the most part I felt that you didn’t really like me, but you liked John, and thus put up with having me around. I also figured that you wouldn’t have us around if we were really horrible. So, despite me often feeling distant in some situations I felt like it was okay for me to be in whatever setting we were in. It was always hard to tell were I stood with you personally.
So, I regret not being honest and forthright with you, and asking you directly if there was something I had done. All this is in the past, and it’s not in regard to any one particular situation… but I do realize that I should have given you that honesty, and perhaps we would have had a more fruitful and close friendship.
Please, keep up the honesty. It’s a good thing.
Wow, thank you for the comment! I think it is a brave one. And I appreciate it.
I can say we four Hogabooms all valued your friendship very much. You and John both. It hurt to see you go! But we’re glad you’re somewhere you’re happier.
“The ability to tell someone that you’ve been hurt by them should be the easiest thing to do.” I really wish it was. Not just so I could employ it without feeling like I’m going to puke, but I wish my friends/family could do it, and I wish that when someone brought it to me (however fucked up they communicated it), I could make it an easier process for this person by listening in a non-defensive way (I am actually getting better at the latter).
Thanks for your comment. I do plan on keeping up the honesty. It’s hard not to compare myself to some Ideal out there who is practiced and sure. I’m just doing the best I can!