How to Be Honest, Even When It Hurts
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Whoever told you it’s unkind to hurt someone else is lying. When it comes to honesty, hurting people is a given. It’s easy to avoid the uncomfortable and upsetting manner of honesty; we use justification to save people, and ourselves, from inconvenient truths all the time. But is dishonesty acceptable for the sake of sparing someone else’s feelings? No. Not only is honesty the hallmark of a healthy relationship, but it is the light required for personal growth.
Lying is Natural
Although we are born with an innate sense of honesty, deceitfulness quickly becomes a defense mechanism. As young children, we begin to see how little white lies help us to avoid punishment. Throughout the course of development, people learn to conceal. The brain’s default mode is to avoid pain. We learn early on that defending ourselves and others is desirable, because it prevents injury. After all, if people were unable to lie, we may question their interpersonal skills, deeming them socially awkward. But lying is primitive. We’ve all heard the adage that truth is light. Well, if truth is light, then deception is dark. When we choose to live in the dark, use it to our advantage, we are not only taking the path of least resistance, but we are starving ourselves of light. Personal growth cannot occur without effort, and as with most living things, it cannot survive in the dark.
Honesty will lead you to other aspects of development. If you are more honest with yourself, you may finally be able to move on from heartache or discontinue a bad habit. Being open with others will lead to relationships rooted in trust and love. When we put integrity ahead of concealment, we not only strengthen our core values, but we demonstrate through our actions that we truly care about the people with which we interact.
Cultivating trust and respect is foundational to any relationship. Whether the connection is between you and a co-worker or a spouse, honesty is the only means to obtain credibility. Open and sincere relationships make you more approachable and make people feel safe with you. The integrity of those bonds will only strengthen through your openness.
Honesty means questioning others’ actions. Don’t be critical, but be concerned for others’ well being. Honesty means forging alliances that help each other achieve personal growth, regardless of discomfort or fear. Honesty means defending others in spite of possible gain grown out of deceit. Honesty also means realizing that you cannot fix everyone’s problems through openness, and that someone else’s “truth” may better serve them than yours.
Steps Toward Honesty - Be Gentle!
Step 1: Awareness
Recognize patterns that are holding you back. It may be necessary to keep a journal or record a “confession”. Identify instances in which you have been dishonest in the past and in which you are likely to be dishonest in the future. Do you see a pattern? Are you more apt to lie to particular people, or do you only tell lies in certain situations? Whatever the reasons for your deceit, try to locate the root of it. Personal growth requires weeding, pruning, and nurturing. Make a plan to change this pattern.
Step 2: Start Where You Are
Start small by being honest about trivial matters. It’s okay to tell your spouse that you don’t like the dinner he or she prepared. It’s okay to tell someone that you didn’t get around to reading that e-mail. It’s okay to respond that you are not well, when asked “How are you?” By fostering a sincere environment within you, you will slowly gain the courage to be honest in more serious matters.
Step 3: Be Positive
Be positive in your approach. If you’re confronting a loved one with disregarding your feelings, use the personal pronoun “I”, as in “I feel hurt when people don’t recognize my opinions”. Saying “You never recognize my point-of-view” is negative and may make your loved one defensive. Also, try to be constructive in the criticism you provide. For example, if your coworker spends more time discussing personal business than actual business, and it is affecting office performance, say something, like “I’m glad that you feel open enough to share this personal information with me, but right now, I really need help concentrating on this project. I’d love to hear more during lunch, is that okay? (So, that part may be a lie, but listening to your coworker may actually help him or her out).
Also remember that honest dialogue is sometimes best done in private. The potential to do harm is too great if embarrassment impedes the message. Be mindful about when and where you discuss certain matters.
Step 4: Watch Your Actions
Actions speak as loud as words. Relationships that are based on open lines of communication will have better chances of developing and remaining healthy. However, avoidance, silence, and apathy can harm a relationship just as quickly as a bold-faced lie. While it may be best to hold some criticism back (you don’t want to become judgmental in your honesty), what is not said can sometimes do more harm. Living a life of integrity, is necessary for personal growth, and it is only through self-development that you can maintain healthy relationships.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Durham, J. (2014, October 25). Integrity and Honesty : Important Attributes. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.lifecoachexpert.co.uk/integrityhonestyimportantattributes.html
Lawson, J. (2010). Honesty and Personal Growth. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.reichian.com/honesty.htm
Wells, J. (n.d.). Do You Have the Courage to Be Honest. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://advancedlifeskills.com/blog/courage-to-be-honest/
White, J. (2012, August 12). 5 Reasons to Be Honest in Love. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5775/5-Reasons-to-Be-Honest-in-Love.html