“Honesty is the best policy.“
I grew up hearing this message and have said it to my own kids. I believe it in my heart, but honestly I don’t always practice it.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that HONESTY IS HARD! And depending on your definition of best, honesty may not always feel like the best policy.
Throughout my life I have internalized three very powerful messages:
- My role was to be quiet and not make waves, no one really wanted to hear what I had to say anyways.
- It’s risky to be honest and if people find out who I truly am, they will reject and abandon me.
- Honesty is supposed to be easy and always result in good stuff.
Unfortunately, I believed these things to my core and they were completely DISHONEST!
I really don’t know exactly where I got those messages, I believe it was a combination of things. Nonetheless, these were attitudes and beliefs that I held (unknowingly for a long time) and so I lived them out. I shut up and isolated. It was an excruciating and very lonely existence. When I did break my silence, I did it in hushed whispers, scared to death. Fear still tends to be a faithful companion of mine.
The most dangerous part of this existence was the fact that I lived a very dishonest life. I faced the world constantly wearing a mask of some sort. Somewhere along the way, I started forgetting to take the masks off when I was by myself. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing me, I saw nothing but the masks. Over time I began believing that was me. My true self was gone. The scariest part of all was that I didn’t even know that she was missing. So I became the masks and they devoured me. But I didn’t know that then.
I also didn’t realize how hard it is to lead such a dishonest existence. After a little life, I knew that honest living surely was not easy. This set me up for believing the lie that keeping my truth to myself was a better alternative. I just wanted to avoid pain and heart break. It seemed logical to me; who really wants to suffer anyway?
I didn’t know that I was hiding and in the process, my insides were being ripped to shreds. It takes a lot of effort to hide, it is stressful and taxing. After a while I couldn’t do it comfortably anymore and I needed help. So I turned to alcohol, drugs, food, anorexia, bulimia, busyness and codependency to ease the pain of my “pain blocker”.
The thing is, truth is always dying to come out. It keeps hitting its head on the box it’s been shoved in until the lid pops off. If you really want to keep it concealed within the box, you had better be ready for a raging war. Ironically, that is much more painful that revealing the truth to begin with. But it certainly doesn’t always feel that way at the time.
Just ask my daughter, Ella. About a year ago a friend revealed something big, dark and heavy to her. Thankfully she told me and then said the words that are too often spoken, “you can’t tell anyone”. We talked about the danger of keeping this information to ourselves and some options of how we could handle the situation. My BRAVE 12 year old chose the path of truth. It certainly wasn’t the easiest option and in doing so she risked a friendship. She didn’t even waver in her decision, she took a breath and looked me straight in the eye and said, “OK, I’ll do it”.
That was one of my proudest moments as a mom. My girl doing the hard thing, something that I would absolutely struggle with too. She inspired, encouraged and taught me so much in that moment.
Completely revealing my true authentic self continues to be a challenge for me on a daily basis. Am I going to speak and act on my truth or try to please others? Am I going to say or do the “unpopular” thing and risk rejection? I have to keep reminding myself that honesty IS the best policy even when it doesn’t feel like it. I fight anxiety and paralysis at times. I waver and I fall back behind the masks. Change is not a linear path.
One of the hardest things for me is speaking the truth when it may hurt and/or not be well received. As humans we have a basic need for love. When I feel that my honesty may be met with resistance, defensiveness or criticism it can be a fight for me to put it out there. The pain of feeling unloved, dismissed and unheard is just about the worst for me. My instinct is to avoid it at all costs.
Except the cost is my integrity, my soul and my identity. I’m learning that this is death for me. No amount of “love” is worth it.
I am learning and relearning this everyday. It’s baby steps forward coupled with fumbles. I keep practicing and pick myself up and dust myself off when I fall. I’m growing in my self-acceptance and love and one day at a time becoming more honest and whole.
So is honesty really the best policy?
Yes, I think it is!