Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Today I want to think about honesty and what that really means. Like the word love, I think it is used but abused in its real meaning.
We all like to think we are honest. But are we really?
I think we can be quite dishonest about honesty. I'll go so far as to say we are well practiced at being dishonest about honesty, in that we think we are honest when on investigation we are not.
Apart from the fact that Honesty is a plant in the mustard family, (with clusters of purple flowers and semitransparent, satiny pods) I'll go with the description in Wikipedia:
"Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft."
lets go with integrity, straightforwardness and the absence of lying as a simplified short form.
A great place to look at honesty or rather dishonesty, is around sexuality. This is where dishonesty is often most visibly played out. This cartoon is a good example of what I mean. But Sexuality is just a focus point, the same dishonesty is occurring in other areas of life .
So why is this the exception rather than the norm ? If people were honest, this would be pretty common, no ? and could you be this honest ? why not ?
Outside of the fulcrum of sexuality, this type of lying is happening every time you don't say or do what you feel in the present moment. In other words, the moment you avoid exactly what you feel, and say or do something unconnected to that truth, you have entered a state of dishonesty and are out of integrity with your real self.
Here are some common examples of this sort of lying that I am sure you see all the time:
- Buying gifts for birthdays or Christmas because its something you are supposed to do rather than feeling like it for a given person
- Finding someone attractive and hiding it
- Finding someone unattractive and hiding it
- Someone asks you how you are doing, and you say OK, when you are not
- Avoiding 'upsetting someone' - this is a big one. e.g Doing anything for someone else because you think you 'should' when you don't feel like it. Or pretending to be interested in a conversation or person when they are simply boring you.
Going with the short definition, I hope all of these examples are clearly not honest, in that they are not any of a) in integrity b) straightforwardness and c) with the absence of lying.
I think you will get from this already that adherence to our common social norms demands a fairly high level of dishonesty. I would go as far as to say being a 'normalized social creature' in the world demands you to be a compulsive liar. Add to this, the lying is policed by other members of society through shaming of anyone who 'comes out' as honest.
When dishonesty gets so well practiced and ingrained, you wont even know you are doing it. It reminds me of the native american phrase spoken of the invaders, 'white man speak with forked tongue...'
Shame and Truth
An important point I want to make is that how you feel in the present moment is an 'irrefutable truth'. There is no possibility of it being incorrect, none. Sure it can change in the next moment, as long as that is true too.
The only way of dealing with this level of truth is through shaming someone for it. And kids get it the worst, imagine how a kid would be shamed if they stated they were finding a teacher boring in class.
Obviously if a kid is yawning in the classroom, it is simply a true fact that the kid is bored, why is that made to be the child's problem ?
Making this in any way a child's issue is how we become trained in shame, our honest innocence as humanity is dehumanized. Only through shame training can we as a society be OK to maintain our existence as compulsive liars. (Parents are often complicit too, or they risk being shamed themselves)
Honesty is a state of innocence.
But we are learned to lie to avoid shame, instead of learning to admit to it, at the same time, we lie to maintain our shame. It is trained in from the beginning of schooling, it is our standard indoctrination.
Whats worse is kids are told not to lie while they are being taught to lie. This type of mixed message is the perfect way to destroy self esteem, building in a good heap of un worth of self, into the now forming 'self image' of a child.
You can link the amount of shame someone has with the amount of lying they do, and how much one feels to deserve to be 'who the really are'. Its obvious really, the least honest people will be those carrying the most shame.
Sadly I believe the extreme example of what I am talking about in relation to children seems to be a root of pedophilia, shame can reach such an extreme that it is acted out in some vain attempt to find purity
Also guilt and shame are linked. If someone has no shame, they simply can not 'feel' guilty. This I believe is the 'natrual' healthy state for a human being. Ie every human has a right to exist as who they are right here and right now. A clear antithesis for example with the christian doctrine of original sin.
If someone carries a lot of shame its easy to have them feel guilty for pretty much anything you want. Charities and religions play off this fact.
The example of this principal in action is do gooding. Any person or group that needs to be seen as doing or being good, is acting dishonestly (and will carry their own shame for doing so). Doing good needs no social sanction, wanting one (social sanction) proves you have no belief in your own action, you are acting against your true belief. Its dishonest.
The more I have understood this, the more I have seen it to be common in our world. A good word for the Dishonesty of honesty is Hypocrisy. Its a bigger word so I normally just go with lying.
It became clear to me that when this lying or hypocrisy becomes instituinalised, the institution itself that becomes the purpetrator. School is a good example of the perpetrator of our shame, but religions can often be more extreme. The most extreme example I can think of is how the Catholic church can state its acting for good while in reality is the worlds biggest known operational pedophile system.
The Presence of Honesty
I want to bring the discussion round to being present. As I covered in my love article (which is essentialy about honesty too)
You dont have a hope of being present while you are not being honest with how you feel (especially to anyone who is close to you). The two just dont go together. The moment you are honest with how you feel, bang you are present !
So being truly honest means being present, they are the same thing. Its why I called this post 'The Presence of Honesty' thats what its all about.
The presence of honesty, in this case ideally your own, will expose the hypocrisy of do gooding, and/or spirituality in yourself and who and what else you relate to. In this light you can see any teaching that supports acts of dishonesty in your feelings, while teaching its 'good', is simply hypocritical.
JC was big on this hypocrisy stuff, probably a good reason they strung him up.
"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:1-6 RSV)
(actually i don't think its why they strung him up, I reckon its more because he went around telling people they were truly innocent. By saying 'your sins are forgiven' he absolved people of the shame and guilt that made them beholden to religions and control structures of the day. Its that that made his words dangerous)
I have had alot of fun with being honest over the years, it can take you to some very unexpected places and get some unexpected reactions. Sometimes the most honest thing for me to do when someone talks to me is to say nothing. That i found to be for me the most personally challenging, it's so counter cultural but so incredibly liberating to stay present and not have to make up words, when nothing feels true to be stated.
True honesty as opposed to hypoctical honesty which does not encompass your feelings is something I recommend if presence is an important goal for you.
And especially if health, happiness and longevity are things that matter to you, shame is not a good thing to be building up inside your body. If you went to school or church, I reckon its likely you have some to recognize and unlearn.
A final point on honesty in society that I think is relevant. While we continue to support our own dishonesty in ways I have outlined, I believe we will continue to support institutions such as Governments and Spiritual establishments that support hiding things from us.
I don't think asking 'them' to change before we are prepared to look at our own lie is honest in this regard.