“Just tell Boy what you want to do. It’s only Boy, after all,” my friend told me yesterday afternoon. We were discussing some logistics of an upcoming trip, and I was worried how to tell my brother, and generally crazy soulmate, Boy, certain aspects of those logistics without hurting him. My friend’s answer was simple. “Be honest. Just tell him instead of worrying it over in your head what he will think.”
I nodded. I trust Boy and he trusts me. We would not knowingly hurt each other. I just had to be honest, and beautiful honesty, when given with love, doesn’t hurt. I didn’t worry anymore. And he wasn’t hurt at all. It made me think more about honesty as a value.
Let me tell you something about the way I have been brought up. My Mom is the most honest person I have ever known. She does not lie. Ever. Lying is abhorrent to her. I am not sure if any of us can keep her standards. We end up with little lies every now and then. We tell the driver that we are “reaching in 10 minutes,” when we know we are 30 minutes away. We call those lies, “little white lies,” or even “necessary lies.” I know. I have done that too.
There are a 100 ways to lie, and just one way to tell the truth.
Not so for my Mom. Her honesty can baffle those of us in polite society. We are not used to people telling us things as they are. But I have realized that there is one way to make relationships work better – loving honesty. And because of my Mom, I hate being lied to. Not the small lies. But the big ones – the lies that give blind promises, valueless words, meaningless actions. It’s a deal breaker if ever there was for me in relationships. But let’s be honest about the kind of honesty I am talking about. Not brutal honesty. But loving honesty.
What is loving honesty?
I use the words “loving honesty,” to emphasize that courage and honesty need to be always combined with love. Without that, you can be a boorish brat who thinks you can say anything to anyone in any manner. I know. I can be one of those. I have hurt many with my honesty. I am learning to be honest without being hurtful. How do we build loving relationships based on loving honesty?
You realize that honesty is loving our differences.
Too often, we seek people and friends who only validate what we feel. I see not much value in those who placidly and passively accept what you say. “I know. You are so right. Dump him yaar,” your best friend might tell you.
“You did the right thing in thinking of yourself first. You need to do that,” another might say.
The words, “You are so right,” are magic to our ears, aren’t they? But I disagree. I have realized that in this phase of life I don’t value the ‘yes, yes’ people as much as I value the ones who tell me that I suck. The ones who tell me that I didn’t do something well. Or who rap me on the knuckles. Or who are honest enough to just not agree with me. And if I can do that as well to them.
Have the courage to choose honesty
My closest people in life value my honesty. They don’t shrink from it. They love it because I don’t always validate what they want to hear. I can sometimes see through people’s pretenses – the ones who stay in my life are those who can bear that mirror. They have that courage to face that honesty and my stupidity. Together, we can build magical relationships when we can be honest. And the key? You can be honest when you don’t fear. When you have courage, you have trust. You can express your deepest thoughts, your mindless fears, your often-crappiest self without fear. Those sort of relationships bloom. The relationships that can instead be crippled are those where you have to watch your words, where you can’t say what you want, and where you are scared to be who you are.
This doesn’t give you the excuse to behave like an idiot or a cold-hearted person. No. But you can breathe free knowing that the other person will care enough for you to sort out your mess with you, not against you. To be kind in our honesty is to be kind to ourselves. Radiate that kindness to others too.
Honesty is a muscle – use it often, and it causes microscopic tears in the fibers, which eventually make your muscles grow. (That’s how you build muscles, anyway!).
Honesty is to look at your mirror.
The past few weeks I have been looking at the mirror on the wall. Not to ask if I am the fairest of them all, but to just see if I am being honest with myself too. Am I really as kind as I make myself out to be on this blog? Nah. Another example for you. There I am, complaining about something or the other to my friend.
“No, kindness doesn’t work. Kindness doesn’t give you anything,” I mutter darkly. My friend is honest in her response: “Are you being kind to get something in return?”
Just like that, my ego comes crumbling down. I expected kindness to reward me! I think that being kind should give you X result, and if it doesn’t, well, don’t be kind! The fallacy of such thinking!
Don’t be me. Let’s lay the path to honest, loving relationships. Start that in the small ways. In the end, the small ways always count.
- Be honest when you are hurt. Be honest when you hurt. We spend too much time trying to beat around the bush. Be honest with your communication.
- Do the small things with honesty. Next time you catch yourself telling a friend that you are just “5 minutes away,” instead of “20 minutes away,” do the honest thing. Exercise that honesty muscle!
- Honesty shouldn’t scare you. It’s the lack of it that should. So, if you are afraid to look in the mirror, just look more. Closer. Deeper. Remember that our muscles grow weak when we don’t use them. And remember that honesty is a muscle too. An emotional one.
- Be gentle with your honesty. I have mauled others with my words, and I am learning to be gentle with those words.
- Be honest with yourself. Do you really want to ditch that girlfriend? Do you really want that job? Do you care about yourself more? Are you selfish? Are you kind? Are you in love with your ego? Whatever the questions, answer them with compassion and honesty.
- Above all, be honest enough to listen to the words you don’t want to hear. Don’t hanker after the ‘yes’ people. Be honest and courageous enough to keep the people who are willing to give you different perspectives, the one who tell you, ‘no,’ and the ones who will not just validate what you think or feel.
This is the second in my series on the three values that I think can enrich our life. With courage and honesty, you are already one step to leading a life that loves you as much as you love it.