The More Honesty, The Better Your Relationships

The More Honesty, The Better Your Relationships

Why aren’t people totally honest with each other? Maybe they think it will cause strife in the relationship. This might be justified or unjustified. Sleeping with the neighbor. Looking at the neighbor. Pornography. Football. Elbows on the table. (That’s a bit old-fashioned. How about using phones at the table?)

It’s not always easy to decide whether the strife is justified or not. If it is, you’ve got value issues you need to explore together. If the strife is unjustified, it’s a question of acceptance, and that can go either way: they accept how you are, or you accept how they are.

But strife isn’t the only reason for not being honest. One is shame and embarrassment. There is something you are uncomfortable sharing. It might be connected to sex or money or power; whatever it is, talking about it feels like you risk being seen as less attractive, less capable, less in some way in the other person’s eyes.

Another reason for not being honest is wanting to maintain a sense of self. In accommodating the desires of others, we lose a fraction of ourselves; we lose the sense of autonomy. But if you are in a relationship of full acceptance, you can simply be yourself.

Both these cases are about not wanting to be seen, but in a fully-accepting relationship, that is not a problem. By sharing ourselves with the other person, several things happen. The other person feels more connected, and you can attain more insight into yourself because the act of speaking makes clear what was not yet fully grasped.

You need to regard honesty as more important than shame. Whatever you are embarrassed about has to be expressed at some point because being open is an essential part of relationships. At the same time, being honest is a risk, and needs trust, which builds over time.

All this assumes you have a totally accepting friend or partner. But if you don’t, what you can do is to be totally accepting yourself. After all, if that’s what you want the other person to be, you have to be the same.

So that’s how honesty ties into total acceptance. They are partners in harmony.

This attitude of full honesty and full acceptance may require a radical reframing of your beliefs, which needs to be based on a change in feelings, so in reading this piece, look at the feelings it brings up.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Wood carving of couple

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5 Comments on “The More Honesty, The Better Your Relationships

  1. This is the deepest of all issues: Honesty and Truth.
    The clichés, “Honesty is the best policy” and “Truth hurts” and “Nobody wants to hear the truth”, each stem from our own search for inner peace. We risk (temporarily) forfeiting that peace when we venture out from saying what people want to hear and cross over to speaking the plain truth.
    Perhaps much of that is self honesty; we want to believe something so we try and make it fit, when it may not.
    And by taking the leap ( of faith) and speaking what is genuinely true, we open our hearts to genuine connected-ness to each other.
    So, why don’t we feel comfortable in this realm? We don’t want to rock the boat…and yet…the boat will certainly sink if we hold all the heaviness of deceptions to try and “keep the peace”.
    Thank you for this radical work . It shines light into navigating difficult waters.

    • Thank you for this. I grew up in a family where politeness, social convention and prudishness dominated, and to this day, honesty is something I need to practice rather than it coming naturally.

      • Dear Phil,
        While our backgrounds are totally different; I grew up with the profound trauma of my dad deserting us by the time I was 3 and my grandma stepping in so my mom could go to work.
        My Grandma had escaped the Pogroms in Russia when the tsar was wiping out the Jews. I learned to speak softly so I would NEVER “make stink” or “stir things up”…I never whispered a thought out loud that would disturb the peace in any way! I think it’s built into our our subconscious minds to speak within the boundaries and NEVER NEVER Rock the Boat…
        I think this might be the largest issue that keeps people apart…whatever their background..
        Thank you…for speaking to the unspeakable…Saying it OUT LOUD

        • I didn’t write about it in the blog, but there is a tension between the individual and the group (see my personal writing) that means we all have to moderate ourselves in some way in order to fit in. In the olden days, being exiled from the group was near-certain death.
          So nearly all of us are socialized during childhood, and that can create trauma and inhibitions that we later work on as adults, finding how we can be authentic while at the same time respecting the needs of society as a whole.

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