Monday, October 22, 2012

What is the Honesty Policy?

Saying What We Mean and Meaning What We Say

When Is it Better to Just Shut Up?

"Honesty is icy."
My brunch yesterday went rather well. I was able to tap into my inner strength that I discussed at length in my previous entry, Strong Man Competition, and went into the get together feeling confident about myself and about my life. I wanted to portray an image of feeling good and being well in the hopes of rekindling the friendship and showing my friend that I am a stronger and different person than I have been in the past. I left the brunch feeling great about how it went. I thought that I came across as the strong, responsible, and confident person than I am gradually becoming. I believed that we could move forward with our friendship and that hopefully my friend realized that I was no longer the needy, sick, and dependent friend that I once was. I didn't think much about the brunch after that until I received a message from my friend regarding my post from yesterday. She had taken the time to search for and read my blog and was angry and offended regarding a great deal of the things I had said. I understand why she may have felt that way but bashing her our undermining her abilities as a friend was certainly not my intent. As children we are always taught that honesty is the best policy but I am beginning to think that maybe as we grow older the rules change. Now that I am an adult what is the honesty policy? In treatment I was told to express my feelings and emotions because burying them would only lead to further issues later on. I have worked for years honing this skill, becoming comfortable with my emotions, and learning how to share them with the people in my life. This method works in treatment and therapy but perhaps it is not appropriate in the "real world." 

I like to think that I say what I mean and mean what I say but maybe now I need to learn when it is better to just shut up. I am very confused. I spent years of my life keeping my thoughts and opinions hidden and it resulted in resentment, frustration, and an eating disorder. I used my anorexia to cope with the feelings that I felt I couldn't express and used starvation as a means of numbing out so that I no longer had to deal with painful emotions that I felt I was unable to share. But now I am not really sure what to do. It seems as if expressing my thoughts and sharing my feelings will land me in just as much trouble of a different kind. Am I supposed to stop being honest for fear that someone is not going to like what I have to say? Is saying what I mean and meaning what I say worth the negative consequences? Should I just return to my previous practice of keeping my mouth shut and hope that it doesn't yield the same unfortunate results that it did in the past? I really have no answers to any of these questions. I feel confused. I feel as if I have been fed contradictory advice over the course of my life. As children we are told that honesty is the best policy. In treatment I was advised that my eating disorder was a manifestation of many years of keeping my thoughts and emotions inside. And now that I am back in the real world, as an adult my honesty as resulted in the loss of many friends. I feel better when I express what is on my mind and do not allow negative emotions and feelings to mount up inside of me. But is saying what I mean and meaning what I say worth the negative repercussions? Because I don't seem to have any answers this afternoon and just continue to throw out a never ending list of questions I am going to turn to one of my favorite tools, quotations of course, in the hopes of figuring out this dilemma and discover what the honesty policy is.
I have numerous quotes for us to ponder today and hopefully we will be able to resolve this dilemma either in one of them or in the collective power of all of them. The first is quote about the honesty of children-

A lesson in truth telling-
"Pretty much all the honest truth telling in the world is done by children."

- Oliver Wendell

I believe that this quote is quite accurate. Children rarely feel badly or uncertain about telling you what's truly on their mind. They will you tell if they love you, they'll tell you if you're fat, they'll compliment you with great sincerity, they'll point out a big pimple on your face and sometimes their words hurt. But no matter what they say for the most we can believe them and perhaps this is because they are constantly being told that honesty is the best policy. But as we grow older this rule seems to change or disappear and we become well acquainted with the art of lying. The next grouping of quotes relates lying and fear-

"I never lie because I don't fear anyone. You only lie when you're afraid."

- John Gotti

"We tell lies when we are afraid...afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger."

- Tad Williams

There seems to be truth in both of these quotes. I have lied in the past because I have been afraid of what the truth will bring. Lies can hide our true personalities and protect us from those who may dislike who we are when we are being true to ourselves. Lies can cover up mistakes we have made and allows us to avoid condemnation for our errors. Not sharing how we feel seems to be the greatest lie that I am struggling with at the moment. By not expressing my emotions I am in essence lying by avoiding the truth. These lies have saved me from the negative reactions others may have if I were to share my true feelings. I was afraid of losing friends or having people become angry with me. Now that I have expressed the truth my fear has become a reality and it is forcing me to question whether or not honesty and self-expression is worth it. The next quote speaks directly to the situation I communicated earlier in this entry-

"If we were all given by magic the power to read each other's thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be to dissolve all friendships."

- Bertrand Russel

This quote is clearly beyond appropriate for my current situation. I shared the truth, my thoughts and feelings and the result was a dissolution of a friendship. This quote leads me to another thought: maybe it is best to not always tell the truth with friends. Perhaps the honesty policy excludes being honest when it may hurt people or if the truth will only result in larger issues. I can grasp this notion but I don't like it. I don't want to spend my days walking on tip toe, wondering what I can and cannot say, and holding on to things and emotions that bother me. I guess if I am so dedicated to truth telling I am going to have accept its consequences: loss of friends, confrontations, and misunderstandings. I am really not sure what is more important to me at this moment. Do I value honesty more than I value the lifelong friendships I have created? Are there people out there who are willing to accept what I have to say and are capable of recognizing that I must express my feelings honestly as a means of avoiding other negative repercussions? 

These questions lead into my final quote for this entry-

"Respect for the truth is an acquired taste."

- Mark Van Doren 

Not all people can handle the truth I suppose. And not everyone has been conditioned to express their true emotions. I have had experiences that I have taught me that in order to stay well and avoid relapse I must share what is on my mind. However I can admit that just because I am able to dish out the truth does not mean that I am always the best at accepting it when it is dealt to me. I have come to realize that honesty is not always the best policy but I have been unsuccessful in answering my initial question: What is the honesty policy? Perhaps this is a question and an idea that I need to ponder on my own for a little bit. These quotes have helped in enlightening me but they failed to answer all my questions. The truth is complicated but people's reactions when hearing the truth are even more complex and unpredictable. I know that I will continue to express my emotions and thoughts using this blog, my journal, and in face to face interactions because it makes me feel better. It lightens my load. I don't feel burdened by uncomfortable feelings and angry thoughts that would otherwise build up inside of me. But maybe this sad situation with my friend serves a good lesson in precaution. Just because I am expressing myself does not mean that everyone wants to hear it and perhaps some things are better left unsaid. It doesn't mean I need to shut up in all scenarios but maybe there is a more appropriate forum for sharing certain feelings and beliefs.

Most importantly be honest with yourself even if you can't be with others,

Maybe this is a time when the new and revised honesty policy is more appropriate?

1 comment:

  1. It is because of your willingness to be totally open and honest that I have been strengthened. Though your honesty has been costly for you--the value of your true words has benefitted me, and I'm sure others, immeasurably.