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The Truth About Being Honest. ~ Sara Rodriguez

Honesty.

Why is it painted in such a muddy color, strapped by taboo circumstance?

Is it because we are encouraged to speak, act and feel honestly at all times without considering the framework? Is it because we are expected to say and do whatever we honestly see fit, even if it’s inappropriate? Or is it because we are criticized for delivering honesty with dismantling potential? Is it “politically incorrect” to say what we really want to say, simply because it’s true?

It comes down to yet another question:

When is it ok to be honest?

There are many times when we offer the truths we perceive, perhaps without solicitation, and we regret sharing our opinions because of the reactions they caused. Sometimes, we upset or offend others with our honesty, even if we don’t intend to do so.

Just as much, there are times when we keep our sincerity tucked away in an effort to remain safe, and we regret our concealment just the same. It happens every time we are left to wonder what would have been if we said or did what we wanted to say or do.

We don’t want our honest actions and opinions to create an image of harshness or intensity, so we keep them deeply hidden.

While it may seem that this mechanism of protection is largely with others in mind, that’s only half of its purpose: We hide our honesty for fear of hurting others, but we also hide it for fear of hurting ourselves.

Honesty is conveyed through exposure. Our discretion in when, how, why and to whom we offer honesty, determines how much we show of ourselves; our discretion in when, how, why and from whom we receive honesty determines how open and vulnerable we are.

With this correlation in mind, perhaps we can rephrase the questions:

When is it ok to be exposed and when is it not ok?

Why is the concept of exposure only discussed in whispers? Is it because we are supposed to expose ourselves at all times, even when it seems improper? Or is it because we are judged for exposing ourselves with the potential to hurt and be hurt? Is it “politically incorrect” to show what we really want to show on the basis of purity and truth?

What do we fear more—criticisms of unabashed openness or accusations of lacking authenticity?

Depending on our answers, we can revisit the question of honesty with a clearer understanding. However much of ourselves we wish to expose is reflected in our discretion of honesty. If we fear openness and vulnerability because of the inevitable judgments that come with such characteristics, then it’s best to keep our sincerity safely buried where no one will ever find it.

However, if we would rather honor the purest intentions we have—the strength in which our truths reside—then it would serve us to wholly and willingly expose ourselves. When push comes to shove, hiding our honesty doesn’t protect anyone—the truth only hits harder with time.

We don’t have to be hurtful, cruel, brutal or harsh to be honest—not with others and certainly not with ourselves. We only have to be sincere and true to what goes through our heads, no matter how twisted or strange the thoughts seem at the time.

Contemplating our inner voices means that we are being honest with ourselves, and being honest with ourselves is the prerequisite for being honest with others.

Personally, I’d rather be open without fear or shame, no matter the criticisms I receive for being so. Call me crazy, loud, wild or pathetic—at least I am who I am with pure intention, rooted in sincerity.

I am who I am honestly. So, why is honesty such an ambiguous topic?

Because being honest is not always the easiest thing to do.

The time that we spend mulling over those deep thoughts before they cross our lips—that is the process of honesty. And in that process, we may decide that expressing those thoughts would be beneficial in promoting the truth, or we may decide that those thoughts are not entirely honest and so we let them go or reconfigure them to express ourselves more truthfully.

And then there’s the process of exposure that comes with our honesty. It invites criticism, exhausts our mental capacity, leaves us stripped bare indiscriminately and requires the painful release of some control. We go through both processes and every time we must choose between being honest, dishonest or vague.  But once we experience those moments enough, we recognize that honesty and exposure are not only necessary, they’re most efficient.

It takes more energy to hide the truth, only to have to rehash it with more effort later, than to put it out there from the start. Whether it’s the truth about another person, an event, a feeling or who we are as individuals, it becomes clear sooner or later.

Why waste precious time and energy preventing honesty’s inevitable takeover? Why not say what we really feel, do what we truly want to do and be who we honestly are?

If it’s going to happen anyway, we might as well actively participate in the process. Besides, there’s only one of everyone; only we know what our honesty looks like, how it feels and what it means.

At its core, being honest is not so difficult to comprehend, nor is it an unspeakable or touchy subject; the perceived struggle lies in its application. But as with most concepts, honesty is a practice, and one that all of us could pursue more thoughtfully.

As long as we keep asking questions, we can keep ourselves honest.

As long as we consciously practice being honest, it’s always ok.

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Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

{Photos: Courtesy of Flikr}

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john Dec 29, 2013 10:50am

My intention and commitment beginning now and continuing forever is to practice "radical honesty" in my life, to the fullest extent that I am capable. I am carrying one thing along with that, however. I am told that it is from AA. It is this: "Honesty without sensitivity is brutality."

Denise Dec 1, 2013 11:47pm

My Aunt years ago said to me ” if you always speak the truth then prepare to have very few friends” this I discovered through life is so true, in keeping my mouth shut and trying to please people I did find that eventually I blurted out what I felt intutitively was the truth. It will for sure come out eventually so I always speak honest albeit try to be considerate with the wording of the truth

Nov 30, 2013 12:48pm

Your article resonated with me, Sara. I have been finding my own personal truth in silence. I recently took a vow of vocal silence for several days and came to some startling conclusions about myself and those around me and communicating truth. Sometimes words get in the way.

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Sara Rodriguez

Sara is a political activist, feminist and writer based in New York City. Her work has been published on Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog, Rebelle Society and Elite Daily.