Where is there dignity unless there is Honesty? — Cicero
Today I’m parading Honesty around the block, free for the taking – a gift for December. Does it cost to be honest? There definitely are consequences to being honest. Integrity, for instance, but sometimes something much more harsh. Here’s a Socrates Cafe question: is it ever morally defensible to tell a lie? Here’s a Biblical philosophical question: what is truth? (For 3 pieces of cheese, tell me who asked this question to whom? For all the cheese in Wisconsin, tell me why that person never answered?!) *n.b. – My father used to play a game with us that we called “Bible Questions for Cheese”. He would quiz us on our Biblical knowledge after dinner and reward us with bites from his cheese platter as he finished off his bottle of wine.
Which kind of honesty is the most difficult for you and why? Telling yourself the truth about yourself, telling someone else the truth about yourself, telling yourself the truth about another, or telling your truth about another to that other?
Self-deception can be pretty intractable. How do you even know that you’re not telling yourself the truth about yourself? Do you have to depend on someone else telling you the truth about you? How would someone else even know the truth about you? I suppose I approach this by going the second route first. I try telling someone else the truth about myself to see if they can believe it’s the truth. This would seem like madness to some people. Why are look looking outside yourself? Why wouldn’t you trust yourself to know yourself? How could anyone else know you better? I have heard quoted many times, “Lean not on your own understanding”, and I suppose I took that to heart. So now, I’m working on trying to be honest with myself and to trust myself. This takes some courage and a lot of forgiveness.
Telling the truth about myself to others is something that I want to do. It saves me the trouble of having to come up with a lie. It allows me to get that feedback I need to find out if I’m deceiving myself. But sometimes, I detect that TMI reaction. Too Much Information divulged to your own offspring, for example, is not at all welcome. Especially when they’re young. I’ve done that a few times. More often, I told them the truth about things, facts, at an early age that others did not think was appropriate. For example, I told them that Santa is fictional. I told them the correct names of body parts. (My oldest was 4, I think, when she gave a word for the letter ‘V’ that rather shocked her nursery school teacher.) I told them that their father had coronary artery disease. (Again, my oldest could draw an anatomically correct heart from memory at the age of 6.)
Ducks can walk on water. It’s the truth!
Telling myself the truth about another has been difficult only on a few occasions that I recall. Telling myself that my father was not God and was not perfect was one. Telling myself that my husband was dying was another. However, in those situations, the truth was very valuable, and the difficulty was well worth it. I guess that means I defend more delusions about myself than about those whom I love. I believe that shattering delusions about myself will be similarly painful but beneficial, so I’m willing to keep at that.
Telling ‘your’ truth about another to that other is what Steve likes doing the most in relationships. He doesn’t usually “tell” so much as he questions in order to draw out an opportunity for the person to tell the truth about him/herself. He calls it “being challenging” or “being intense”, and he considers it a supreme act of love. And he does it kindly, in my opinion, but more importantly, he is conscious of trying to do it kindly. It isn’t always received that way, though. Sometimes, no matter how tactful and kind you try to be, that ‘other’ is not going to want to hear your truth. Hopefully, that reaction is only temporary. Getting to the point of engaging with truth in a relationship is an important step to intimacy. It’s what being ‘truly loving’ is all about. It takes grace to invite someone to that point in a way that is non-threatening. I appreciate therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists everywhere who take up that practice in the name of love.
A truly wonderful aspect of Life: that we never walk alone. Counting the days and the ways that we are given good things in abundance.
Who Could Ask For Anything More?
Companions. The gift of friendship, togetherness, to know we’re not alone.
Steve brought me breakfast in bed this morning. I am having one of my cyclical let-downs, when I have wearied myself in contending with life and death and love and loss. We were discussing E.M. Forster’s novel “A Room With A View” when this came on. Hormones, of course, have everything to do with it as well. Lucy Honeychurch gets “peevish” when she plays Beethoven, and I get “peevish” reading Mr. Emerson’s speech on life and “muddles”. Steve gets Slavic and moody listening to Mahler, or perhaps he listens to Mahler when he feels moody and Slavic. We are beginning to know each other’s moods better and better. And I really believe we are lucky, blessed, in a state of grace in that we accept those moods and are not threatened by the most peculiar of them. That’s why he’s my best friend.
I’ve never had a lot of friends, and all of my best friends have been male. Maybe that’s because I grew up with 3 older sisters. I am a little suspicious of females. I have a feeling it’s because I compare myself to them far too much. A sly competitiveness creeps in and makes me uneasy. I pull away. With guys, I don’t compare. I can be ‘other’ and so can he. It seems simpler. It’s a mindset that should apply to females as well except for my own perverse insistence that it can’t. Growing up, I played with a boy who was a year younger than I and lived two doors down. We were best friends for 9 years. We played in the woods across the street. We played house and wedding, and he was always the bride. He had older step-sisters who kept being married off, and I think he found that really enchanting.
Brother & sister and best of friends
Friends to suffer with your moods, enjoy the stuff of life, travel with you through adventures of all kinds. Old friends, new friends. Situational companions. Steve likes to imagine how he’d be if he were stuck in an elevator with a few people for hours. He would definitely skip the small talk about the predicament and enjoy a captive opportunity to get to know them really well. He’s kind of intense like that. Scares some people. Yesterday, I saw a news video about a policeman who crawled under a bus to hold the hand of a 24 year old woman who was run over and pinned. The photo of them together on the asphalt and his interview afterward just filled my heart. I know what it’s like to be so afraid and just to cling to another person for the reminder that we are never alone in our fears. We suffer together. We are interconnected. And if anything is God, it is there as well. Presence. Abiding. Being with each other. It is the ultimate ‘yes’ of living. Which brings me back to Forster and Mr. Emerson. “In his ordinary voice, so that she scarcely realized he was quoting poetry, he said:
“‘From far, from eve and morning/ And yon twelve-winded sky/ The stuff of life to knit me/ Blew hither: here am I’
“George and I both know this, but why does it distress him? We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another and work and rejoice. I don’t believe in this world sorrow.” Miss Honeychurch assented. “Then make my boy think like us. Make him realize that by the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes — a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes.”
Ah, Yes. To love one another and work and rejoice. Companioned. Who could ask for anything more?