Monday, November 19, 2007

Radical Honesty

I'm almost to the armholes of my NaKniSweMo sweater. I knit a bit this afternoon while listening to a fascinating podcast--a talk show that ran during summer (yes I am behind!)--of an NPR interview with the author of Radical Honesty.

The author Brad Blanton summarizes that "Radical Honesty is a kind of communication that is direct, complete, open and expressive. Radical Honesty means you tell the people in your life what you've done or plan to do, what you think, and what you feel. It's the kind of authentic sharing that creates the possibility of love and intimacy."

Honesty is sort of my issue. I remember watching a soap opera once and saying to my partner, "If only everybody was honest with each other, there would really be no STORY here!" We watched it a few more times--but knowing that every lie led to the next plot twist sort of ruined it for us.

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As I said in the post about conflict, I often don't allow myself to say the full immediate truth before I contemplate how that truth will be received by the audience. Truth can be scary sometimes. As Blanton writes, "Probably the most often used rationalization for lying is "I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings."

The author goes on to say, "Probably the most often used rationalization for lying is 'I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings.' I recommend you hurt people's feelings and stay with them past the hurt. I also recommend that you offend people. We can all get over having our feelings hurt and we can get over being offended. These are not permanent conditions; they are feelings that come and go." Only in relationships that I am fully confident will survive the challenge (like--at least most of the time--those with my partner and child and closest friends) do I almost always feel comfortable expressing my truth.

But maybe it is exactly that risk that leads to deeper relationships.

Blanton is a psychotherapist. He requires his patients to come clean with all the people (like family members including parents) with whom they have resisted conversations about the truth. Although it is often hard to be fully honest with loved ones, Blanton's patients explained that "right on the other side of that hard time, they were no longer depressed, they were no longer anxious--they were happier." He continues, "What actually occurs is that when you open up and share by telling the truth it frees you up from the jail of your own mind."

I'm especially intrigued by the author's statement that "sometimes it might be more honest to say 'I don't know' where it's a real opening where you don't know, and you're willing to be with not knowing; that's where creativity comes from." It is exactly that ability to listen, in a consensus-led organization at least, that allows people to both express their truths and arrive at a truth that is greater than any one person's truth.

But then Blanton says that "more often than not, when people say 'I just don't know,' it's a protest, it's a whine, it's a not wanting to take responsibility." When I think I am trying to understand the will of the group, am I at least sometimes just trying to avoid conflict, even when reaching informed consent is my job?

On his website, the author concludes that: "the focus of what I have to say is not so much some moral taboo against lying as it is that I am in favor of people having fun in their lives, and having joyful, playful lives, serving each other. I'm not morally condoning telling the truth or saying that it's immoral to lie. I'm just talking about a pragmatic thing. If you go out and tell each other the truth you'll be happier. You're better nurtured in a world in which you're telling the truth than you are in a world in which you're cowering, hiding and lying."

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I keep thinking about what this means for the way I parent. At what point do I have to tell Son the full truth and nothing else? Children have an ability to say the absolute truth and fully believe pretend at the same time. Well--Blanton has a parenting book out--one I've not heard of before but am ordering right now: Radical Parenting: Seven Steps to a Functional Family in a Dysfunctional World.

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Tonight: a martini made with gin, white vermouth, peach bitters, and a bit of lemon peel. Cocktail while knitting, avoiding the truth.... Sometimes I need just a bit of reprieve from the truth.

Or does the alcohol make it easier to tell the truth?

1 comment:

Carrie K said...

While I agree that honesty is usually the best policy, there are times when being honest is a mask for passive agressive meanness where someone can say whatever they want and hide behind "I'm being honest."

But very interesting ideas! I'll have to check out that podcast. On the whole, people are pretty silly about the things they're dishonest about.

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