Updated: Jul 22, 2021
What do you think of when you hear the word honesty?
I can’t help but think of the Billy Joel song.
It always felt like he was singing the song Honesty directly to me.
"If you search for tenderness
It isn't hard to find
You can have the love you need to live
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind
It always seems to be so hard to give
Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you".
The message is clear; honesty is hard to come by but what we need more than anything else.
It’s easy, and often convenient, to notice and point out all the dishonesty around us, particularly with others close to us. Usually, we can feel it in our gut. But, unfortunately, not always. In the times when we don’t pick up on someone’s dishonesty, and are ultimately betrayed by them, the wound is deep.
And the self-doubt (How could I not have seen this coming? Did I miss the signs that this person was a liar?) can be debilitating.
But the power of honesty is undeniable and how, when we are surrounded by it, we feel safe and secure and when it is withheld from us, we are disappointed, fearful and unhinged.
Simply put, dishonesty destroys us and honesty frees us.
Certainly this is true in relationships but what about with ourselves?
Isn’t it also the case that when we are lying to ourselves, we experience discomfort, stress and feel out of alignment and when we are really being honest there’s a comfort, a certainty and a freedom? Yes!
Buddha says that suffering comes when we aren’t being true to ourselves so why, then is it so hard to be really honest with ourselves?
When we are little we are completely honest about everything; our truest feelings come out, often at inappropriate moments. But one thing is certain- you can always count on children to tell us what’s happening, what they think about someone and particularly how they feel.
But at some point we become embarrassed about our mistakes, our imperfections, and we begin to cover up the truth.
We learn to become afraid to make mistakes, and then can’t be honest about anything because we are trying to avoid the danger of being found out. We are unable to shake the underlying belief that we have to avoid dangers so we obsess about everything; planning, judging and blaming.
Try to noice when your mind is occupied by fear of some danger, that you are going to lose something, fall short, not succeed. Notice when you are worried that something is wrong with how you look or act and ask yourself what it feels like in that moment.
Does that fear of some danger, perceived or not, allow you to be open and honest or closed and constricted?
Another challenge to being honest to ourself is our need to seek reward. How many moments a day are you pursuing something? Some reward? Food? Comfort? Approval? Money? approval? comfort? money? possessions? When our brain is working towards gaining more rewards/pleasure/success, does it feel truly honest to you? When you take a moment and see yourself doing that, how does it feel to you? Do you feel like you are becoming more available or more unknown?
The third way we distance ourselves from that deep honesty is by employing strategies to get approval. And attention. Ask yourself what you are wanting from someone else? Where are you seeking approval? When you are doing so, do you feel powerful? honest? yourself? Probably not.
When we identify with these modes of wanting, avoiding harm, seeking rewards and we are not aware that we are doing so, they are like veils that keep us from knowing who we really are.
The conditioning and fixating keeps us small.
When we can stop obsessing and just try to notice what’s happening, then we can do something about it..
The poet Elizabeth Lesser prays every day to:
“Remove the veils so that I might truly see what’s really happening here and not be intoxicated by my stories and my fears.” David Whyte in his brilliant book Consolations comes to the same conclusion that: "The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties.. Honesty is not a weapon to keep loss and heartbreak away, it is a diagnostic of our ability to come to ground in reality. Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power over life or eve the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence.."
Our path to honesty with ourselves is to really see what’s happening; what our motivations, struggles and impulses pull us toward. And to not hide behind our veils. Ultimately, its about the willingness to be vulnerable, to not know and to be powerless to change or control what is happening or has happened in our lives.
Healing begins with reality.
The power of facing what’s really here is liberating..
We need to let go of the fixing, doing, blaming, whether it’s ourselves or others, because in those moments we don’t have access to our honesty.
We can’t be fully at home with ourselves when we fixate on what’s wrong.
What can we do? We can notice what's happening and name it. Say to yourself, "I am grasping, I am striving. I am blaming". Naming it aloud counters the self aversion. And it brings us closer to ourselves. The words of the wonderful Mark Nepo are directly on point.
"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved and beneath every anger is the wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling in the world and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness that diminishes our chances for joy. It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something and then forgetting we chose to put them on.. We complain that nothing feels quite real, our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves.."
The joy really is getting real, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to "unglove" ourselves and feel life with our bear hands and our open hearts. This poem by Dana Faulds reminds us that all we can ever do is let go, let in and let be.
"There's no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightening bolt containing a tornado,
Damn a stream and it will create a new channel,
Resist and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow and grace will carry you to higher ground
The only safety lies from letting it all in.
The wild and the weak, fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of your heart
Or sadness veils your vision with despair,
Practice becomes simply bearing the truth
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
The whole world is revealed to your new eyes."
Let's let go of our known ways of being and allow the whole world to be revealed to our new eyes.
Join us at The Gathering on Sunday, April 11 at 4 PT/7ET for an hour of calm and reflection and a deeper inquiry into honesty. https://www.noraplesent.com/event-details/april-18-sunday-hour-of-calm My coaching schedule is filling up so please reach out if you are interested in working with me privately. Would love to be there for you as you move towards more space and compassion for yourself and experience less overwhelm and exhaustion. With love and light,