We'd all like to think we are good at assessing our strengths and weaknesses - that we know best where we need to improve. Unfortunately, we are often too close to the problem to see things clearly. Part of being human is having "blind spots" in our character or personality. These are flaws or subtle issues we are unable to see because they lurk at the edges, much like when we're on the highway and we dutifully check our mirrors, click our indicator and start to change lanes only to find a car right next to us that wasn't there a split second ago. We swerve away, startled that something suddenly appeared when we were so sure the lane was clear. Most of us have done it on the highway and chances are good we've done it in life. We've thought, "this particular negative trait isn't an issue for me." And then at some point it makes a surprise appearance.
Last article, I wrote about being a kind person. We'd all like to think we know how to express kindness but an outside observer might think differently. How effectively are we pursuing the trait of kindness? Today I want to focus on a trait that may surprise you - honesty.
A brief disclaimer: I am not suggesting that we are ALL big fat pathological liars. What I am suggesting is that we resort to less than 100% truth more often than we realize and probably just need a reminder or slight course correction in this area.
We are conditioned in our culture to be social manipulators. We have been taught from a very early age to say what we think others want to hear.
With friends: "How's my new hairdo?" "Oh it looks marvelous!" (but in your opinion it does not)
With spouses: "Are you mad at me?" "No, everything is fine" (but really you just don't want to talk about it)
At the grocery store: "Sorry, am I in your way?" "Nope, just looking" (in reality you need to grab butter or cheese but instead you just circle back later to avoid awkwardness)
In social settings: "How have you been lately?" "Great! Just so busy" (the truth is that you've been awful and you only say you're busy so you don't sound lazy)
In church: "How's your walk with God?" "I should probably pray more but mostly it's good" (actually you're having a crisis of faith or a struggle you'd rather not share)
These are classic examples of truth telling in everyday life. However, none of us wants to be that person who seems to ALWAYS have a crisis or is ALWAYS having a bad week, so many times we just gloss over the truth so we don't have to deal with an awkward conversation or situation.
Sometimes when we are in a social setting we embellish or add to our story of a past event to make it funnier, better or more interesting. We add an inch to the size of the fish we caught, round to the nearest 10 when it comes to the number of pounds we lost on our diet or some other minor issue that becomes important to us.
I think there are two big reasons people sometimes lack 100% honesty.
1. The truth can feel like giving up control. If we are telling the story we can control the narrative. We decide what people hear and what they know about us. Once the truth is out there that option is gone. We also fear the discomfort truth brings. It's the classic dilemma - do I tell the person I'm talking to that they have broccoli stuck in their front teeth? For whom is that conversation more awkward and uncomfortable? You being truthful or them walking around like that for a few hours? If we keep quiet we remain in control.
2. Being truthful all the time means that sometimes the truth will disappoint people. "The truth hurts" became a phrase for a very good reason. It can, and often does, hurt to hear or state the truth. When someone asks for your honest opinion about something personal to them, your opinion might wound them but Proverbs 27:6 says - "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." This means that a real friend takes the risk of telling the truth even if it might hurt, but because it's coming from a friend you can trust that they have your best interests in mind. Proverbs 6:17 says that a lying tongue is one of the things God hates. You telling the truth might disappoint a friend but your lie will be hated by God.
How can you pray for and pursue honesty?
Give thought to your words Jesus says that we will have to give an answer for every idle word we've spoken. Are your words truthful?
Ask God specifically to make you a wise and careful truthteller. There are ways to tell the truth that are not hurtful. You can be honest without being brutal. The truth must always be offered in love and with kindness.
I welcome your comments and thoughts on this article!