18 April, 2008

Are you completely honest?

Location: searching for truth
Mood: perplexed

I mean, completely. Not just most of the time, or when it is convenient, or with certain people. Have you ever tried to count your lies? On a daily basis, as you go through the routines? How many times do we not tell the truth?

Walking down the hall:

"Hey, Bob. How's it going?"

"Oh... pretty good. How about you?"


I could go on and on. And it would bore you. Actually, now I am boring me too. Examples were not what I was trying to provide here. What I really wanted to talk about is about how we communicate and express ourselves. In general, to everyone. But more importantly, thinking about how we express ourselves to people about whom we care a lot.

Heh... I'm starting to wonder... what the hell am I disclosing here? Maybe I'm the only one that does this! Maybe everyone else IS honest! All the time!

Um... I doubt it.

So... I am having a hard time getting where I am trying to go here, so let me try something else.

  • Save someone's feelings
  • Hide or disguise small inconsiderate or selfish acts
  • Social acceptability
  • Protect oneself from consequences
  • Allow oneself more time to make a decision
  • Gain approval or favor
  • Privacy
  • Control or manipulate a situation

I've probably done most or all of these (the 2nd one is probably my favorite, followed closely by the 4th one). Maybe not the "gain approval or favor" because I usually can find something true to say, in order to accomplish that goal!

But the fact is... I like to think of myself as honest. But I don't think I am.

Part of the reason this came to mind is that I was thinking of a recent situation, where I was trying very hard to be honest about something difficult. It was a social situation, where there were consequences - potentially, anyway - for telling the truth. It would be much more convenient to lie. And I was trying really hard not to lie. And I did a pretty good job. And the truth was not as hard as I thought it would be. But in the end, things got a little messy, and I didn't stick to 100% truths. I slacked off, you might say, because I suppose I reached a threshold where the fear of consequences finally outweighed my desire to maintain complete transparency. I suppose this is very human behavior.

But what troubles me is this. In hindsight, I realize that I maintained honesty in one realm, while becoming dishonest in another realm - and I was completely unaware, until I just now thought about it, that I had actually been completely honest in the first realm. How cryptic am I being? Huh? I am obviously not willing to be completely open here. Why? Um... fear of consequences.

I suppose other than the anecdotal value, my point can be summarized without those details. I became so focused on managing information in realm number 2, that I ended up being dishonest there. In realm number 1, to the best of my knowledge, I was completely honest.

And realm number 2 was the one that I should have been completely honest. So I am wondering, was the distribution of honesty related to the realms themselves, or to the stakes that I associated with those realms?

Do you see the difference?

If it was just realm-dependent, then one could say, "Well, this realm was of such a nature that it was just easier to leave something out, or turn something around, whereas the other realm didn't expect/require/demand such dancing". But if it were stakes-dependent, then it means that I will just lie to protect my most precious interests at any given point in time. And that is fucking huge. It is completely an issue of character, then. And it would concern me. But what concerns me right at this moment is that I don't even know which it is. Or if it was both. Or if it matters. Or why the stakes were balanced as they were from the get-go. Or what it was about the realms that manifested such decisions. Actually I think that last point is the one I probably understand the most.

But... I just don't know.


  1. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2008/02/29

    Go listen. It's relevant.

  2. Bob, I think you worry too much about hurting people's feelings by being honest with them. Of course, this is why you have so many friends, and I have so few.

  3. This Dan character likely knows you better than I do, but his words are wise. You can be honest and be diplomatic at the same time. Sugar coating the truth is a derogatory term, but making the truth easier to swallow doesn't make it any less true. Changing the truth to only 75% or 50% to make the truth *teller* more comfortable is a lie in a way. But, caring enough about someone's feelings to not want to hurt them isn't a character flaw - not giving them the respect by being honest with them is.