At a certain point in my life I had to come to terms with the fact that I was being dishonest. I don’t mean I was a liar or a cheat or a crook, but I was being dishonest in the way that all humans are, at some point or another, dishonest: I wasn’t communicating properly.
Communication is deeply difficult to do properly for most humans because it affords us the ability to lie in tiny ways all day long. We’re careful what we don’t say. We always make sure to say what we think in the most innocuous way possible, so as to not produce confrontation. When presenting ourselves, we often adhere to an idealized version of ourselves that doesn’t accurately represent how we really think and feel. We cultivate these false perceptions through communication (or a lack thereof).
An aversion to confrontation just for the sake of being “nice” and “comfortable” is one of the most profoundly self-destructive things sheltered modern people do. Not only does not communicating hurt you and further repress you; it also hurts the person who has no idea what you’re withholding. We all do this. We let problems fester because it’s uncomfortable to bring them up, and if there’s anything a modern person really hates it’s discomfort.
My life changed in a constructive way as soon as I decided to start really being honest with people. I’m not insulting for the sake of being insulting, but if I have a bone to pick with someone and it’s reasonable and not delusional, I will pick it. This starts, obviously, with being honest with yourself. Once you discover your real motivations and value system, you can have the confidence and understanding of nuance to present your dissatisfactions to another person in a productive manner. They may resist them up-front, especially if you’ve been sitting on them for a while, but over time they will be grateful for your honesty.
Once your internal thoughts, actions and words come into harmony, being honest with others becomes second nature. You may find there to be a rift between the life you’ve created in your head and the life that exists outside yourself. The key is to either make peace with this dissonance or let your capacity for action lead you towards a truer external world. Sometimes we become honest with ourselves and find that we have people and things in our lives that are no longer mutually-beneficial. It’s OK to part with these. It’s most important to be honest with them about why.
Being honest with yourselves and others, from the proper vantage point, allows the people around you the opportunity to grow and change too. Proper criticism is healthy in the same way that proper compliments are healthy. Improper criticism is just as harmful as improper compliments, because it is dishonest. A thoughtful criticism allows someone the catalyst to in turn be honest with themselves.
If we all move towards a culture of honesty, where we don’t obscure truth for the sake of comfort, we’ll find ourselves initially more uncomfortable. But we will rise out of that comfort with a newfound strength, self-respect, and respect for others. There is no positive change without rupture, and sometimes internal conflict and external conflict are required if we want to get to the heart of things.