When I wrote the post Who I Am, I spent a good portion of it talking about honesty. Actually, I originally intended that post to explain why honesty is always important, and what in my life made me the blunt person I am now. It ended up just being a post about who I am as a person in general. So now, I will stick to the original subject in this post.
While we are growing up – while we are children gradually turning into adults over the course of 18 years – we are taught to always tell the truth. I did that to the best of my ability, until that moment I described 3 posts ago, when I realized I actually conceal a lot more of my thoughts than I reveal, purely out of fear. I noticed everybody does. It’s not that I was a frequent liar (well, just an occasional one), it’s that I didn’t notice how often I avoided the truth, both with others and with myself.
Something I failed to explain in Who I Am is how I realized honesty is the ultimate tool in life. If you want to improve yourself, if you want others to improve who they are, and if you want to understand as much as you can about the world around you (all of which apply to me), honesty is what you need most.
Where would science be if we only ‘discovered’ what we want to believe? Well, it would be nowhere. Dinosaurs aren’t mentioned in the Bible (unless you really stretch certain passages), so if you refused to believe in the existence of something the Bible makes no mention of, you’d either ignore the existence of dinosaur bones, or actively try to conceal them from the world, or make up some bullshit about how the devil put those bones in the ground. My point is, the scientific community would be in shambles if it only accepted evidence supporting what it wanted to. You can’t learn how to build rockets to send people into space, or learn how to predict weather, or learn out how to fight cancer, if all you do is see what you want to see.
The truth is ever present, whether you want to see it or not. You can’t run from it.
So why do we avoid the truth so much as adults? Or even as children? Why are we encouraged to be honest in our early years, but then honesty is stigmatized and taboo after you grow up? I can’t count the number of people who have told me they admire how I’m an honest person. Every single time I hear that, I think, Why? Everyone should be this way. To me, it’s the equivalent of being admired for not eating food with my mouth wide open, or being admired for flushing the toilet. These all fall under the category of: Things People Should Already Do Without Being Asked.
Due to the fact honesty is stigmatized, people are hyper-sensitive to it when exposed to it. Ever notice, in general, how whenever you speak frankly and honestly, people appreciate that, unless you are honest with them, in which case you’re suddenly seen as an asshole? That’s how a lot of people see me as a person; just an asshole.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but apparently I do from time to time: I hate conflict, and I hate cruelty of any degree, and fuck anyone who tries to hurt people with words. In heated situations, I don’t get mean (intentionally), I only start caring less about filtering my opinions and thus I voice more of my thoughts and perspectives that were already there. I get even more honest, to put it a different way. I only do that because, I believe, the truth is all you need to diffuse any situation. It rarely works, because like I said, most people run from the truth, but if people accepted the truth more than they avoided it, there would be far fewer conflicts in life, both in general and in personal circumstances.
Around 10 years ago, I knew a guy named Kyle. I’ve mentioned him on this blog before. I have also mentioned my best friend Mitch many times. Around 10 years ago, Kyle and Mitch got into a brief feud about a girl named Katie. They were both infatuated with her. Naturally, Kyle tried to bring other people into this feud to get on his side, because he was insecure like that, and I was one of those people. Kyle called me one day, complaining about Mitch. At one point, I told him, “Katie is uncomfortable with you because you act like a predator.” Kyle absolutely lost his shit (meaning he was furious). Was I being honest? Yes. Was that harsh? Yes. But it was necessary. Maybe Kyle didn’t know how he acted, or maybe he genuinely wanted to know what people were thinking. Regardless, he needed a dose of honesty. I’ve never regretted saying that to Kyle.
I didn’t use the ‘P’ word lightly. Kyle was practically known for pushing his boundaries with girls, both verbally and physically. He expressed interest in Lisa, my girlfriend at the time despite the fact she was my girlfriend, and virtually all of my female friends, especially Amy. The guy really was a creep, and nobody knew for sure how far he’d ever go. One or two years after this situation with Mitch and Katie, we learned exactly how far Kyle would go. Kyle cheated on his girlfriend-at-the-time with a minor, and got that minor pregnant.
Did my honesty save the day? Obviously not. 99% of the time it only makes matters worse. But my honesty damn well could have helped.
If everybody was as honest as I wish they were, society would have far fewer problems than they do. I know I’d be far less frustrated with people in general.
“What you’re doing is evil.”
“You’re a coward.”
“You’re a grown adult, but you have the maturity of a child.”
“The people you surround yourself with are bad for you, and they’re bad for you because they don’t actually care about you.”
“I’m not thrilled you’re pregnant again, because you can’t take care of the kids you already have.”
These are all things I’ve had to say to people in the past. These and more. I’m sure you, reading them just now, thought they all sounded harsh, to which I say: Maybe, if you only process things with your feelings and nothing else.
Honesty should be handled with feelings and rationality, both. Honest words should impact you and eventually drive you to do better in the future, so that those words are no longer true. But instead, people simply, simply take honesty as ‘being mean.’
When I was a child, there were times when I was quite obnoxious. I’ve never had much of an exuberant side, but I did have one and it came out during times like recess or church youth group. And when I let myself be crazy… I was a little too crazy. Hell, I’ve even been obnoxious sometimes as an adult. But when I was a kid, and people didn’t want to be around me, because I was sometimes annoying, that hurt my feelings. A lot! And I’m sure we can all relate to being rejected by our peers even if we weren’t being annoying at all. I was sensitive to all of it. I cared very deeply how people thought of me. I cried a lot when other kids didn’t accept me, or when they mocked me, or when adults criticized me. But despite the fact that it all hurt my feelings, I never refused to listen.
That’s the key.
The things people didn’t like about me when I was a kid… They’re all virtually nonexistent now. And yes, there were times – multiple times – when I was called stupid. I didn’t want to be stupid, I didn’t want to be annoying, I didn’t want to be a useless team member when doing projects or playing games. Despite being a sensitive kid (and a sensitive teenager), I understood that the only way to stop receiving these labels, or even feeling this way about myself, was to make them no longer true.
To be completely frank, I’m still sensitive to criticism, just nowhere near as much as conceited people wish I was. I now understand that everyone has stupid moments, everyone can be annoying, and not everyone can get along with each other (the saddest thing of all). I know I’m always trying to better myself. When I hear legitimate criticism, I simply take it in and try to use it to grow. If I hear illegitimate criticism, I simply ignore it. Basically, I’m not a child anymore, physically or mentally. But I’m still the same person. The same person I was as a kid, who didn’t want to cause problems, who didn’t want to be useless, who didn’t want the world to be broken…
I’m still just as human as anyone, though. It’s physically impossible to voice everything that goes through my mind, so in a way, I still continue to pick and choose what I say at any given time. And there are still things I hate about myself that I want to fix (but I won’t divulge to the world what those things are; I’m sure you’ll use your imagination). In fact, most of the time, I outright choose against voicing my thoughts, because most of the time, I know it will only cause problems. It never should, but that’s how people are. That’s how the world is. Very few people care about the truth, they only care about their own self-serving agendas.
Human nature is less a struggle between choosing right and wrong, and more of a struggle between what we want and what we know.
Honesty is only a problem if you don’t want to improve; if you don’t want to be the best version of yourself. Realistically, it should be embraced by everyone. Knowing is half the battle, as the cliché goes. I am not special, and especially not because I’m open about my thoughts. It’s seriously not a ‘talent’ or a ‘skill.’ It is a standard we should all hold.
For the record, I’m not 100% blunt in every given situation. In fact, it’s extremely rare. I do take into consideration how much honesty a person needs to hear, if it’s appropriate in that particular moment, or if it’s even worth it at all. The only time I am ‘maximum honest’ is during extremely serious situations and somebody outright refuses to see the truth, or at least see how they could be wrong, and I believe it’s absolutely dire that they see the truth immediately.
Being honest doesn’t make you right. It only means you are trying to be truthful, which is still a lot more than I can say for the average person. An honest statement does not inherently mean the conversation should end; quite the opposite, actually. It should be where the conversation begins. Use honesty to clear up misunderstandings, to bring important things to light, and above all, to make progress in the right direction.