Money is the cheapest price you'll ever pay for anything.
The Problem With Honesty, Part two --The Prices
Few people need convincing that honesty is the best policy; at least that it is on paper. And yet, our choices and actions would suggest that it takes more than just an intellectual understanding.
If you really want to know how you stack up in the honesty department take a look at your relationships, they are the ground zero where honesty is concerned. Relationships are the living laboratories wherein we either practice what we believe, or become masterful at the art of deception and rationalization.
Honesty is like pregnancy. Just as you can't be "just a little bit pregnant", you're either honest or you're not. Period. You either tell the truth, or you compromise it in order to protect yourself from the consequences you fear the truth would unleash. And sometimes, given the circumstances, "managed" honesty looks like the best or only sensible option. But is it?
"A lie is just the truth waiting to be itself."
-- Terri Guillemets
It's not always easy or convenient to tell the unvarnished truth, especially when we're afraid to know it for ourselves. The truth confronts us with having to own up to our deepest fears and insecurities. In recognizing and owning what we most fear to know about ourselves, we touch those hidden places within where shame and humiliation, the darkest emotions of all, lie buried.
Yet, if one has the courage to go there, to do the work of excavating those buried emotions, to enter into and embrace them, great freedom awaits on the other side. We must be willing to go through the fire of our own denial in order to reach liberation.
"Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom. "
-- Thomas Jefferson
Last time we discussed the virtues and rewards of honesty. But, it also comes at a price. It seems there really are no free lunches! While the price of honesty isn't necessarily measured in dollars and cents, the real cost of being honest is actually much higher. Or as I often say, "Money is the cheapest price you'll ever pay for anything."
Short Term Pleasure/Long Term Pain
Withholding the truth is seductive because it provides the illusion of having "dodged a bullet", thus providing a little moment of relief, or as I call it, "short term pleasure". But we all know the fallacy of avoiding the difficult challenges of life. Sooner or later, they'll resurface, perhaps dressed in a different costume and possibly next time, they'll come with an even higher price tag attached. The cost of dishonesty is so high, we can't even bear to look at it, which is why we become so masterful at the avoidance game. Thus, the "long term pain" part of the equation. There really are no free lunches! So consider an alternative.....
Short Term Pain/Long Term Pleasure
To truly set yourself free, you must be willing to "go through the fire" of your own worst fears. The cover provided by withholding honesty must be surrendered and exchanged for something that appears to offer nothing but pain, at least in the short term. It is that perceived pain that we most want to avoid. However, whenever we "face the music", i.e. step up and tell the truth, there is freedom awaiting on the other side. Or as my students in Taiwan call it, "unburdening the stones in my heart."
At What Price Honesty?
1. Giving up denial -
Denial is the mask we hide behind to protect ourselves from knowing the difficult truth. We can pretend not to know, or stay in confusion and thereby avoid doing the work or taking responsibility. But, to be willing to know the truth and be honest about it requires stripping away denial and standing in the harsh light of our own judgments and insecurities. Mostly those we have about ourselves. Are you really ready to this one give up?
2. Owning your courage -
Acknowledging the difficult truths are not for the feint of heart. When we fear a backlash from others, or the confirmation of our own worst fears like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, we give up our courage and settle for "truth light" in order to maintain a veneer of acceptability. Either that, or we'll compromise completely and stay under heavy cover. To get to honesty, we must fully own our courage and stand in it. Maybe finding courage is what it's all about anyway. Are you ready to be fiercely courageous?
"The truth is the only thing worth having, and, in a civilized life like ours, where so many risks are removed, facing it is almost the only courageous thing left to do."
-- E.V. Lucas
3. Be willing to be responsible and take the consequences-
This is what we fear the most, the mere possibility that the other person won't like us or will be hurt by our honesty. To avoid the heat we settle for political correctness. Which would you rather have from someone: honesty or their political correctness? If you answered with honesty then you must be willing to give the very thing you want in return. Honest relationships put down their roots in the deep waters of truth. Do you desire relationships built on honesty and trust, or superficial niceties?
"Some people will not tolerate such emotional honesty in communication. They would rather defend their dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others. Therefore, having rationalized their phoniness into nobility, they settle for superficial relationships."
4. Remove your armor and be vulnerable -
Be vulnerable? Are you kidding? Never! Does this sound familiar? Being vulnerable is one of the most difficult states of all. In it we feel raw, exposed and open to the possibility of being attacked, being made wrong, being out of control and drug through a fire that is not of our choosing. Sounds pretty ominous! Why then choose it? What could possibly be a benefit of being vulnerable?
It turns out that within our vulnerability lie the biggest gifts we seek. This is such a huge realm for exploration we'll be taking this one on in more detail in a future post. Stay tuned for The Power of Being Vulnerable.
"Someday a computer will give a wrong answer to spare someone's feelings, and man will have invented artificial intelligence."
-- Robert Brault
It's tempting to look at those little white lies (where the truth is slightly altered to "save face", as in, "does this dress make me look fat?" ) and tell ourselves that sometimes it really is best to be diplomatic and spare others' feelings. This is a dilemma, or as SShaw 490 wrote last week:
"Honesty may be the best policy - but only after the honesty stew has had time to simmer all the virtues that have to go into it."
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, advises walking the line between and "being impeccable with your word." Not trampling over people's feelings calls one up to a higher level of awareness and, therefore, consciousness.
The real issue at hand is about how honest you're willing to be with yourself. If you hold yourself to a standard of "impeccability" regarding honesty with the person in the mirror, you will find a way of communicating honestly with others that honors your own standard and is respectful of others' feelings at the same time. Impeccable honesty does not require one to be a jerk.
If honesty comes at a price, dishonesty exacts an even higher toll. The question is: How do you want to live? We live in an age where everything is changing at lightening speed. The very fabric of our society, and that of the world, is being re-invented, seemingly on the fly. In such an environment it's challenging enough to remain upright, to know where to place the next step or remain oriented to one's own true north.
The one thing we have that is constant is our word and how we use it. We can use it to create and expand possibilities, and have our lives be an instrument for the greater good. Or we can use our word to conspire against ourselves and others.
As for me, perhaps I'm just too lazy to be dishonest for it requires me to carry a burden I'm just not willing to carry. Not even if you ask me, "does this dress make me look fat?" If you don't want an honest answer, please, don't ask. On the other hand, if you ask, you'll never have to wonder what I really think.
What prices have you already paid for being honest? Was it worth it? What opened or what closed in your life because you dared to be honest? Please do leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Blessings on the path.