Let’s talk about two connected topics: facing the truth of our times and being honest in our day-to-day life. Honesty is a much more complicated topic than people realize. I can no longer count how many relationships I have seen destroyed by people struggling with the nuances of honest communication.
What is honesty?
Honesty represents our judgment upon the ultimate truth in a given situation.
Remember that truth represents a story we are holding as a fact. So adding our judgment into our view of truth pushes a person even further away from the facts in play at the moment. Judgment generates conflict, so adding your dash of judgment into a conversation can lead to unexpected problems.
Let’s look at how we can be honest and practical so as not to lose our power as we navigate our problems in the times ahead. I will first examine the challenge of facing the truth of our times; then, we will examine how we can balance out our stories, truth, relationships, and honesty in our life.
Honestly Facing the Future
Oh, what times and challenges we face! What do you want me to say?
It’s all going to be ok!
— Or —
Oh god, oh god, we are all going to die!
Now let me ask a question: which answer is honest?
Ultimately the second answer is completely honest (We all ultimately die, right?), while the first statement is subject to change as conditions shift. People love to give honest answers, yet honest answers often cause problems (Are you really in a rush to die?). Why? Because the ultimate results we predict at the current moment are often a forced answer and often wrong due to changing conditions. Or worse, you speed up events to get to the honest answer faster than we really want to happen.
Secret truth number one. If you buy time and don’t give a direct answer oftentimes, situations will change, and you can evolve towards a totally different answer. But once you give an honest answer, the situation gets focused on that answer. In working with relationships, it is insane how many times the honest answer creates the very conflict the honest answer is trying to avoid. In other words, it is often better to say nothing rather than being honest. This goes against the training many people receive in life.
We are living in challenging times. The conclusions we face are often quite dire and dark. At times when overwhelmed by a particularly bad piece of news I will re-watch the beginning of the movie Serenity. The movie has many great gems buried in the script but the first lines resonant for me as an analog for the times we face ahead.
From the beginning of the movie Serenity:
Malcolm: “Define ‘Interesting’”
Wash: “Oh god, oh god, we’re all gonna die?”
Why is this relevant to honesty? Because no matter how bad the current situation can seem, as long as we power through to change the conditions in play, it is often possible to get to a different outcome than you fear.
Julie and I will quote the Serenity line to each other to laugh and remind ourselves to refocus on changing our lives.
A simple fact is this:
By embracing change and working to shift conditions in play, it becomes possible to redirect the flow of life to evolve away from what you honestly think would happen ahead.
One secret to fixing everything from a relationship going astray to a world breaking apart is to work with change. That change can start small. Change compounds change. When facing something you honestly feel is a bad situation, the answer is always to introduce change into your situation and activities. The more a person resists change, the more likely your honest answer will be what happens ahead.
Many people will actually use honesty to lock themselves into place to avoid change. In times of great change, locking oneself in place often speeds up the process of tearing apart a life. So use honesty (judgment and facts) when you need to stick to your guns to get things done but work with both hope and facts when needing to change in life.
Interestingly, we have many words that pair hope with faith and wishful thinking but only one I can think of one that kinda merges hope and fact – optimism. Perhaps that’s why people resort to honesty in the wrong situations because they are trying to be hopeful with the facts, but the judgment baked into honesty derails your life. Let’s call hope mixed to fact and change – Proactive optimism.
Ironically when I am proactively optimistic, people attack me for wishful thinking. In fact, I know that by using proactive optimism, I have saved many marriages and helped guide people to better lives.
The times when we use honesty vs. truth vs. facts vs. hope are all different. Play around with each to experience the differences between them to better live your life. Be proactively optimistic when trying to improve your situation.
Facing Our Times
I have been helping people face these times for the last decade now. Every day now, the problems around us will slowly increase our challenges in life.
The honest answer is we are not a superhero. The truthful answer is if you help others, take time to be compassionate: you do change the world and become someone else’s hero. Just because we are not our own hero doesn’t stop us from becoming a hero unless you stop yourself.
Blasting Out Your Truth
We must embrace the power of honesty. So, let’s kick it into gear in a Firefly show sort of way… honestly facing our challenges and with guns blazing.
What people don’t realize is being honest is like coming out with guns blazing. Once speaking your truth, you can’t take back your words (or shots). So, in fact, the dash of judgment in honesty makes it a potent force. The time to use honesty is when you are committed to the outcome your judgment holds as truth.
Once you declare your honesty, there are no take-backs. You have to back honesty 100% and with your actions. You have to be willing to accept all the outcomes of your honesty, even the negative results. Once the results of your honesty come out, you have to move on to the next truth. Life doesn’t stop once you are honest; it always moves on to the next problem.
Sometimes the real honest answer is “I Don’t Know”.
We often don’t know the ultimate truth, so trying to be honest isn’t the same as being honest making “I don’t know” the honest & proper answer.
When you release the forced answers and let yourself accept that you may not have an honest, complete answer, it’s just better to say: “I don’t know”.
“I don’t know” is often the first step to allowing change to enter your life.
Midlife Crisis and Honesty
In a midlife crisis, a person is changing and often is in two states of mind. A person’s truth is ever-shifting in midlife, which irritates others trying to pin the midlifer down to a single answer.
It is acceptable for a midlifer to say “I don’t know” even when others try to force them to their answers during a midlife crisis!
Never force a person in the middle of change for their honest answers, instead talk to them about their experiences rather than their destinations.
Blending Honesty with Hope & Love
Let’s leave off with two simple truths.
(1) Life is precious. In this gift of being alive: life itself is the ultimate expression of hope as we strive to experience our story in the best manner possible.
We will have our hard moments, our challenges, but then we turn it around to inspire us to do more.
Quoting Robin Williams: “There is sadness, and then there is hope… The purpose of sadness is to help you make things different. The ultimate gift is seeing that the thing that matters is others.”
As a side note, I love his statement.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”.
Perhaps in these times of madness, it’s a reminder for us to push and be more. This leads us to truth number two about being more and love.
(2) To truly have hope requires us coming together to become more in the times ahead. To become more is the very definition of love. We will come together ahead with open-hearted love (acceptance of each other), or we will tear the world apart (staying alone and separate). To have hope is to embrace the heart.
An important insight about love: what we each need to be more is different! Don’t give others what you need to be more but give what others need to balance out the future. For example, giving an angry person acknowledgment usually works better than a hug.
To quote the song’s revised lyrics:
We found love in a hopeless place.
We found love in a whole new place.
And ironically love is exactly where we end up in the closing lines of the movie serenity.
Mal: Love. You can know all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughtta fall down… tells ya she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens… makes her a home.
River: Storm’s getting worse.
Mal: We’ll pass through it soon enough.
And when I feel the storms of life getting worse, I remember love, and know I too will pass through it all soon enough.