A Time & A Place
Something that has recently come up for me when talking to people about the practice of Radical Honesty is the sentiment that "there's a time and a place for being honest". Presumably this means that (while it isn't the right time and place) we should feel free to lie our asses off, telling ourselves that - although we know honesty is the best policy - now just isn't the right time to be throwing all that damned truth about.
The reasons people have for making a judgement about when to tell the truth are many it seems, but only slightly varied:
"The truth is just too hurtful for them to stand. Why hurt them by telling them something so horrible!"
"What's the point of telling them the truth? They're not going to change after all this time, so it's pointless to even bring it up!"
"Telling him the truth is going to make him so angry, he might be dangerous. I'm scared he'll hit me or hurt himself."
"If I tell her how I feel it's going to cause a huge falling out, and that'll upset everyone else in the family! That's so selfish!"
The reasons for lying to someone might seem entirely valid, they may even give me a warm, cosy sense of moral 'rightness' when I justify myself with them. After all, who looks better in God's eyes (and you can go ahead and substitute Mummy and Daddy here if you're an atheist) than someone who suffers in silence for the good of others? There's a reason we're told matryrs go to heaven and reap all the bounty of the afterlife. It's because we all want to believe that there must be some reward up ahead for being a pious bastard who sacrifices his or her happiness for the good of others.
But here's something I've started to consider. Maybe suffering in silence and keeping all my negative, judgemental thoughts about others inside me doesn't make me a good person. It does however make me a bitter, miserable, angry person whose only means of feeling better is comparing myself with others 'less moral' than me. People who go around doing and saying 'just as they please', and getting what they want as if they had some kind of right to happiness!
While I'm at it, avoiding telling the truth for 'moral' reasons also tends to make me kind of an arrogant bastard. Because who am I to decide if someone is strong enough to hear the truth about themselves? Who am I to make the decision about what's right and wrong for them to know? Are I some divine authority? Do I consider myself tougher, wiser and more able than them? Where do I get this idea that I should have power over what they should and shouldn't know? Who gave me the crown and told you to make yourself Lord High King & Protector?
But perhaps you've figured out that lying to others is not actually about protecting other people, but actually about protecting yourself. If so, you might want to ask yourself these questions instead...
Why is it so hard for you to let someone else know you're angry with them?
Why is it so important to you not to be the one to tell them the truth?
Why is it so hard for you to admit you're not perfect?
What would it mean for you if you were to actually acknowledge what is true?
When I hide from the truth, I disempower ourselves from dealing with reality. When I tell 'kind lies' that mask truths I'm too uncomfortable to deal with, I willingly create a fake reality where I have no choice but to be fake myself. I also send out an open invitation to the others in my life to be fake too:
"PLEASE ONLY NICE THOUGHTS TO BE EXPRESSED HERE. HARSH TRUTHS ARE UNWELCOME!"
That is, unless I decide that - today, right here and right now - the time and the place for truth is just right, in which case I should wipe your feet, walk in and feel free to just go ahead and be honest.