meaningofstrife

Seeing the best in life's challenges

Can I Be Honest with You??

on March 12, 2014

I’m at a point in my life where I want to have honest relationships.  I want to be able to be my authentic self.  I want to be able to share any crazy old idea I have, and explore everything without having to hold back.  And I feel very fortunate to have found others who are able to have this kind of relationship.

So, how does this work?  Well, first, I am aware that most people are not totally honest.  It’s pretty hard to be that way in this world.  There are lots of pressures to be the way society thinks we should be.  So people hold back from showing their true colors.  And many are so conditioned to the way of the world, that they don’t even know who they truly are.

Be Honest With Yourself

So the first thing that is necessary, if you want to have a totally honest relationship with another person, is to have a totally honest relationship with yourself.  This is no small feat.

It’s probably safe to say that all of us have molded ourselves to some extent, based on outside expectations.  This is not necessarily a “bad” thing; it’s just the reality of how things are.  Parents teach kids how to behave.  Families have expectations of doing well in school, of what kinds of professions are suitable, of what kinds of people to associate with.  All this is done with best interests in mind.  Most of the advice and direction we receive from those who love us is well-intentioned.

But we don’t tend to teach our kids how to evaluate or double-check the advice we get from others to see if it feels internally authentic.  We tend to rely on following rules rather than developing wisdom.  And when you are just following an external set of rules, over time, you can find yourself somewhere down a track that doesn’t fit with who you really are.

Life is all about balance.  It’s important to us to get along with others, and what others want or expect from us isn’t always aligned with what we want for ourselves.  The key here is just to be aware of this.  Develop an awareness of who you are, what feels right for you, and know that there might be conflicts.  Be honest with yourself about it.

Single Dad Laughing just posted a great article that is relevant – you might want to check it out here.

Let me just summarize by saying:  It is almost impossible to have a totally honest relationship with another, if you are not being honest with yourself by knowing who the authentic YOU is.

So let’s say you have done a lot of internal work in understanding who you are, why you hold the beliefs you hold, how your life experiences have helped you grow the way you have grown, etc.  You are at a place where you are secure in who you are, you know what brings you joy and you know what doesn’t float your boat.

It Takes Two

It’s not enough to just broadcast honestly out into the world.  For an honest relationship, the receiver of the information has to be able to listen openly, without judgment or reaction.  Sure, a person can go around sharing honest, uncensored information about themselves or their thoughts, but for a relationship to develop and sustain itself as honest, the back and forth has to embrace honesty.

Think about a time you were afraid to share your feelings, or maybe an observation that you thought wouldn’t be well-received.  Maybe the other person was totally open to what you said, and you felt a great sense of relief that you were able to be honest.  This interaction will build trust and an atmosphere that will make honest dialogue more likely to occur in the future.  The person who was able to listen without making you regret being honest just gave the relationship permission to grow in an honest way.

Now think of something you wish you could share with someone, but you are afraid of what they will say or think of you.  We ALL have things we could share that others might not “like.”  We have all had experiences where we have wanted badly to be able to share a doubt, a question, an experience that might “make us look bad” or even a heart-felt emotion that might disappoint another person.  And sometimes we have taken that chance, shared a vulnerable piece of ourselves…..and sometimes, that effort has been met with an emotional reaction, a judgment, a refusal to accept it, a condemnation.  This situation will NOT likely encourage anyone to be as honest (and vulnerable) in the future.

So, let’s say someone you care about and trust shares with you information that is totally unexpected.  You had no idea.  Your initial reaction might be of shock, and you might inadvertently give the other person the impression you don’t approve.  The other person might regret telling you.  If you are paying attention to these things, you can easily keep the honesty open by communicating what is going on:  “Wow, I’m sorry I’m reacting, I just didn’t realize that about you.  I just need a little time to get used to this.  I’m glad you told me.”

We are constantly gauging how honest we can be with others.  Sometimes we find out that someone was not telling us the whole story.  The omission is a way of being dishonest.  Especially in new relationships, both sides don’t know how “safe” it is to be honest.  How many chances do we give another person?  That’s really hard to say.  When we see a pattern of an inability to tell the truth, we conclude that we can’t share openly or trust that person to do so.

I’ve gotten to the point where I try to verbalize my desire to be totally honest in as a clear a manner as possible.  And it’s easier in a new relationship — say I’m getting to know a friend in a deeper way.  I can say directly that I am trying to have totally honest relationships.  I can say that you can tell me anything, and I won’t freak out.  I can understand that others have a history of being afraid to share their deepest thoughts, and I can forgive them if they didn’t share one right away.

I have to be aware that the other person may have had bad experiences trying to be honest in previous relationships.  They may have grown up in an environment with very strong expectations to be a certain way, and it can be very uncomfortable to go against that and be vulnerable and real.

The more self-reflective we are, and the more open and curious we are about others, the more likely we will be able to understand where we are both coming from.  And if we both share the goal of being authentic and honest, the result can be an amazingly safe and nurturing relationship.

Where People Get Stuck

This section is just my opinion.  Feel free to ignore it if it doesn’t feel right to you.  If you think about it and it doesn’t make sense to you, that’s ok.

For someone to be totally honest with you, they have to know that you accept them exactly as they are.  This makes them feel safe.  This means you have no rigid assumptions about them and you do not have any expectations of who they are or what they should do.

I see plenty of people who are all on board about being kind, honest, compassionate, “good” to others, etc. then they have all kinds of ideas about what others “should” do.  Their “shoulds” are all “good” things, many times things that most people would agree everybody “should” do.  These people don’t realize it, but they group people into the good guys and the bad guys.  They are all about accepting people as they are, as long as they are in the good guy group.  They have a different set of rules for the bad guys.

If you are getting to know a person with this perspective, it will become clear that they will be wonderful to you as long as you fit into their “good” category, but you will also know that you better be careful not to slip into the “bad” one.  This person does not accept everyone, so you have to be on alert.

Do you accept everyone as they are?  Even the people who don’t believe the things you do?  Even the stupid people, the fat people, the people who don’t work out, the people who don’t look presentable, the ultra-conservatives, the liberals, the murderers, the druggies, the people who don’t care, the people who don’t “get it,” the mean people, the people who harm children, the people who try to control others?

You might not want to have many of those people in your life.  But that is a completely different decision.  You can accept people you don’t agree with or like, without having to spend time with them.  You don’t have to judge someone as a “bad” person, to decide that you would rather not associate with them.

At the root of this, is letting go of the need to be “right.”  To me, there is a fundamental principle that we have to accept if we are going to be able to embrace total honesty and authenticity.

It is very, very important to look inward and reflect and figure out what feels true and honest and authentic for ME.  These conclusions are terribly important, but they ONLY apply to ME.

I have to respect OTHERS to follow this same process in their own timing and learn for themselves what is true and honest and authentic for each of THEM.  And those things are only applicable for THEM.

It does not make sense for me to impose MY truth on another, because they are not ME.  And PLEASE don’t impose your truth on ME, as I am not YOU.

This is the ultimate in PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Think about how the world would be if EVERYONE followed this protocol.  If everyone spent their energy being the best at being themselves without imposing themselves on anyone else.  Just think if we all felt safe enough to be this way.

We would all be embracing total honesty.

You may think this is impossible.  I say anything is possible.  And in my own little world, I am putting my energy into practicing this way of being, into figuring it out.  No, this won’t happen overnight, but the more people who make it a goal and start working on it, the quicker it will become a reality.

And to those individuals who are working on this with me, you know who you are.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the space to be totally, honestly, ME.


2 responses to “Can I Be Honest with You??

  1. Lisa says:

    Yes and yes and yessss! I don’t need to say more. Except- I have to go back and read the blog posts I haven’t read. Homework to do:) xoxo

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