I have always considered myself an honest person. Recently, I’ve had to examine this belief more closely.
I have definitely had times when it has been difficult to be honest with others; most of these coincide with times when I struggle to be honest with myself. It’s the most difficult to admit that I have made poor choices, and for me, paradoxically, many of these poor choices revolve around telling people things that I shouldn’t. This has been driven by my desire to be someone with nothing to hide, but I’ve blurred lines about what information is mine to disclose.
I’ve realized that I’ve confused my desire to be someone with nothing to hide with my desire to tell everyone everything, which is actually connected to boundary issues. I have trouble both with setting them and with respecting them at times. My inclination to over-share comes from a desperate desire to be known fully, and once known, to be accepted completely. The obvious flaw here is that no one can ever know me completely, proven by the fact that, although I have been with me all my life, even I don’t completely know me. Maybe I think that if I tell someone else everything, they’ll be able to tell me something about myself I don’t know.
The problem is that I talk about the past a lot, and although those events have shaped my character to a large extent, they do not account for it completely. The reason this is problematic is because my past involves other people, and I don’t have the right to tell the stories of others.
What I’ve realized is that my desire to be an honest person is driven by a deeper motivation: I want to be trustworthy. Now here’s where it becomes clear to me that I am not entirely trustworthy, and that I need to refine my definition of honesty. If I were trustworthy, people would be able to share their secrets with me and know that I could keep them. This is something I have never been good at.
I think the reason I have trouble keeping secrets is in part due to the fact that I don’t see their secrets as being shameful or incriminating, and partly because I think they help shed light on situations where the secret is driving behaviour that is leading to conflict and miscommunication. But the fact remains that they are not mine to tell.
What I’m aiming to do now is explain what I notice to the person who has the secret, and encourage them to tell the person I feel it affects directly.
I’ve also started to learn that I tend to try to explain to people why I am who I am. I want to be up front about my weaknesses, but I generally try to explain said weaknesses through outlining the ways I’ve been hurt in my life. This is selfish because it’s driven by a desire to be forgiven for my flaws due to their external causes. This is also the opposite of being accountable. As much as I have been hurt in my life, I have hurt others. If I am going to be truly accountable, I need to look for the internal causes and motivations; if they are connected to some past pain, that doesn’t bear as much weight as how I integrated the pain — how I incorporated it into my personality.
So my second goal in this area is to keep my explanations centred in the present moment as much as possible.
Honesty needs an element of discretion to accomplish both of my goals. I will be considerate of others and focus on the present, sharing only what needs to be shared, and doing so as clearly and respectfully as I can.