As kids, we’re taught that honesty is simple. Tell the truth, it’s better that way. We learn that honesty is black and white, everything is either true or untrue. We learn that lying is usually a tactic employed while trying to cover up something else. So we get schooled in confession – the act of coming clean.
Truth is so much more than confession. Confession (and honesty) is like a doorway for truth-telling. It’s opening a door for truth to take a more prominent and transformational role in your life. Honesty is a philosophy, a habit, a way of speaking and sharing – it is a practice. A way of engaging with the universe and others, but it is not a substitute for truth.
When people talk to me about their search for identity, for meaning and purpose or when they talk about their relationship and work struggles, often I find myself observing the bigger truths that people avoid through focusing their honesty in the wrong place. Honesty has become a series of trade-offs we make to fake intimacy and avoid discomfort. It’s not how honesty was meant to transform us or weave us together through sharing our victories and struggles.
Honesty might be admitting you’ve had a tough day at work. Truth is admitting you’re not making it any easier for yourself.
Honesty might be telling your friends things aren’t going so well in a relationship. Truth is identifying what’s going wrong and taking some responsibility for it.
We spend a lot of time being honest with each other, but not really being truthful.
It’s easy to be honest, when we mostly limit honesty to feelings about our self-absorbed way of processing the world. Here’s the secret nobody wants to admit. It’s easier to be honest with feelings (no matter what people say) because feelings are truly subjective and almost impossible to argue with. No one was ever argued out of heartbreak or into love, no matter how reasonable the persuasion.
Truth is much more powerful than that. If you want meaningful encounters with other people, if you desire meaningful and compelling change in your life or the lives of those you love… stop substituting honesty for the truth. Have more conversations where you push past the honest confession and uncover the truth behind it.
Truth polarizes information into categories that you can respond to, often resulting in the drastic changes that ultimately bring you more joy and peace.
Some categories of truth:
- Some thing, someone or circumstance that you absolutely cannot change. Therefore you can only change your response to it. When people tell you to ‘let it go’, you absolutely will not be able to achieve that Zen-like peaceful state, until you embrace the truth of it.
- A behaviour, action, habit or choice that you are responsible for. You can change it. It might be easy or hard, but that which you recognize your responsibility or your ability to change is what you can rectify or rearrange in your life. Often times, the truth we need to speak is recognition of our choices (2) that constantly bring us into places of frustration, disappointment and unmet expectation with another person or circumstance (1).
- Truth is key to humility. Not the things you tell yourself and let others tell you, but the really true things. Like being a bit shit at personal admin, but amazing at spending time with people in need. Or being really pedantic and OCD in your personal life, that sometimes means having less time for people who aren’t structured the same way you are. Knowing those truths gives you a lot of freedom to be who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly. Humility is knowing your standing before others – so you should what you’re great at and what you routinely suck at. Then you can choose different strategies to maximize your joy.
When I write about truth being a superpower, I’m referencing the ability of truth to shed light into these spaces of our humanity and then empower us with the ability to respond differently.
Truths are solid, immoveable things. They are more often observations borne out by history than political agendas. They are not often feelings, although feelings can be very true. Truths are not morals, not ethics although they too, should remain true. Truths are somewhat objective and yet they reach deep into our soulful beings, carving into us, shaping us, pruning and nurturing us.