The story in the movies was always the same. A boy liked a girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day. He doubted she would ever go for someone like him; it seemed they had nothing in common. But then the idea would come. There was a risk he could take. He would find out anything he could about her and what she was interested in, and he would change into someone she could connect with. Then he would realize the problem: In his quest to become someone she would want, he ceased being who he really was, but still gained her trust; when he was no longer able to maintain his new identity, she was hurt. She felt betrayed.
The risk never paid off.
Honesty in showing who you really are was more valuable than they could see in the beginning. Perhaps in some unseen part of the story they committed to being honest, as much as it depended on them, for the rest of their lives.
I remember consuming these stories as I was growing up and seeing how dishonesty led to so many problems. Cultivating honesty became a desire for me. I wanted to be honest and give people an opportunity to be honest with me in return. Specifically, I wanted honesty in my relationships. I believed without honesty there would be no trust. If there was no trust, I wouldn’t ever be comfortable being myself, and vice versa for someone else in relationship with me.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this topic, as I’ve spent an equal, if not greater, amount of time thinking about relationships. Everything from proper and healthy environments to desires and standards to being able to communicate. Relationships are the bookends of my life; naturally they mean the most to me.
Which makes me ask this long-winded question: Is there something I can do—something you can do—that will cultivate honesty? that will let the world around you know there is no shame in honesty? that it’s a priority? that it should be taken seriously?
I believe the answer is yes, there are a few things we can do.
But then I asked another question: What do we do depending on which side we fall on? Are we the ones fearing honesty? Or are we the ones desiring honesty? Are there those who find themselves on both sides?
What I have written below is from my own experience, as in this stage of life I can easily fall on both sides of the honesty issue. I can be fearful to be honest and open about who I am, and I can also be the honesty champion, taking up that flag with pride and waving it around like a crazy person. I have listed these experiences below and hope you find them helpful.
- Honesty requires a healthy environment.
What do I mean by that? I mean there are environments we create as we live our lives. If we notice that our friends and family don’t have a problem opening up about their bothersome situations, sharing their burdens, being unafraid to express their heartaches, then the environment you provide is likely a healthy and encouraging one.
On the other side of this is whether you can recognize when someone is giving you a healthy environment. A safe space should exist for you in a relationship you cherish. The person or group you share this cherished relationship with should listen to you without trying to fix you, without making you feel as if you are the problem. They should encourage you instead of teach you.
A few other things that contribute to healthy environments is the conversation. When the conversation is good and following a mature direction, it has a way of naturally edifying and encouraging you, or them, and showcases how the parties’ best interests are being considered. Good conversation with mature hearts will lend a good amount of peace, letting you know it’s more than OK to open up; you’re in safe hands.
The right environment will provide a secure barrier for you to be honest about who you are without shame.
- Good emotions provide honesty.
You’ve likely heard this: “Love is a verb.” That is true. But it’s also an emotion. It’s the one word that sums up the motive behind selflessly taking care of someone. So, do the people in your life know you love them? When love is pure, it opens doors, allowing for deeper connection and trust to form. It promotes kindness. It brings to mind the Bible verse that says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) This verse speaks of love, because love has to be the motive—otherwise you won’t do justice, you won’t love mercy, and you won’t walk humbly with your God.
Another thing about good emotions…don’t underestimate the value of sensitive affection, whether giving it or receiving it. This will challenge you, especially as the giver, to be a listener, a friend to someone who needs the assurance to know honesty is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing.
- The power of being who God created you to be.
I wouldn’t have added this point if I haven’t seen the proof in a personal way. And I’ve noticed there are three benefits to realizing the truth of this.
- It draws the right people to you and repels the wrong people from you. Being honest about who you are and not apologizing for it challenges people. And sometimes those people don’t have a desire to meet any kind of challenge. And that’s OK. But still, be yourself.
- Being who you are fosters fearlessness. When you realize you can remain standing for things you’re passionate about, it gives them a desire to fight for their own passions, their own beliefs, never giving in to shame of any kind. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will be worth it, then it will be.
- Finally, you being yourself is going to be used by God to bring people from the outside, in. It’s going to help them realize they have intrinsic value and they too should be exactly who God created them to be.
Cultivating honesty is one of my highest desires for all of my relationships. And these few observations have made me reflect back on my childhood, making me want to reach into all of those stories to implore the characters to simply be themselves. Because if we can’t be ourselves—the people God has had an exact plan and blueprint and purpose for from the beginning—then nothing will make sense. The smallest conversations and connections will become difficult when in reality being yourself should come naturally. And the only way it comes naturally is through honesty.
So be honest.