“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.”
― James E Faust
April Fool’s Day is about as high on my list as...well, I’m not sure what. You see, I do have a sense of humor, but jokes at someone else’s expense just aren’t that funny to me. I get it — it’s a day of silliness. I’ve seen some cute April Fool’s pranks, but I am not likely to be a participant, usually. I hate to tell someone a lie that will end up hurting them, and it’s not easy to know how funny others might find the joke. There are times it is a kinder thing to keep the truth to ourselves — like when a woman says, “Does this make me look fat?” but most of the time, honesty really is the best policy, and it is about so much more than not lying. As Faust says, honesty is about living, loving, and speaking truth.
Here we are nearing the end of April, and it is surprising to me that time really does fly as they told me it would as I got older. They were being honest, it seems. It makes sense that a month that began with fooling people should end with a day celebrating being honest. That’s right — April 30 is National Honesty Day, and has been since 1991. Who knew?
Honesty is important. It isn’t always easy to be honest, even though we know it is (usually) the better choice. National Honesty Day exists to challenge us to be really honest for one day in ways we might normally avoid being totally truthful. After seeing how many people lie, particularly in business, education, and politics, M. Hirsh Goldberg declared this to be a day to ask meaningful questions and expect honest answers that might not be what make you feel good. History shows us lies and deceptions for a number of different reasons that have destroyed businesses and lives. Demanding that others be honest with us but not being honest in our own dealings is not the way things should be, and I’ll admit I’m interested to read Goldberg’s book that started this focus.
Think about each part of your life, and consider how not lying is different than telling the truth. For instance, my husband might say the chicken pot pie was good (not lying), but to really speak the truth, he might want to say how much better he thinks it would have tasted if I left out the lima beans. Telling me that truth sets me up to make a pot pie he’ll like even better the next time (and I’ll see about keeping the limas on only half the pie). Or if he does a load of laundry, I cannot lie and say how nice it was for him to pitch in, or I can go a step further and speak the truth that it would be even better if he would check the pockets of clothes before putting them in the wash so we don’t have tissue parts all in the wet clothes. (Only an example — no chance this happened in my house.) Not lying is ok, but telling the truth is often much better.
You and I both know there are two sides to this topic of honesty. Truth telling is important, but so is being able to hear the truth. Do not be offended. When people speak a truth, we need to hear, we need to listen and be gracious as we consider what that truth means for us. Maybe there is a better way to study, a better way to organize your cabinets, a better way to get where you need to go. There are often truths we don’t want to hear because of our fragile egos, but our lives might be immensely better if we are willing to not only listen but even sit with the truth someone shares.
What if no one else is telling you a truth, but you just know it yourself? Are you able to be honest with yourself, or do you find it easier to cling to the truths you want to believe, especially about yourself or circumstances in your life? Maybe your relationship with a certain group isn’t healthy for you, but you are afraid to let it go because you find belonging anywhere is validating. If you sit with these thoughts, it’s possible you will accept 1) these aren’t your people and 2) you are pretty great doing life differently.
Denver therapist, Josephine Martin offers these thoughts on ways we make it difficult to be honest with ourselves:
• Invalidating yourself and minimizing your experiences.
• Judging or criticizing yourself for your truth.
• Feeling threatened or challenged by the truth can make us afraid to sit with our emotions and thoughts.
• Feeling defensive or rejecting parts of ourselves that make us feel guilty, ashamed or uncomfortable.
• Feeling pressured to take action on our truth, instead of being patient and thoughtful.
• Fearing the consequences of our honesty, for ourselves and for others.
• Fearing our own power and feeling anxious about what might happen if we trust ourselves, and our feelings about what is true for us.
I believe that as we become comfortable with being honest with ourselves, we will welcome truths from others, and we will become happier and more confident people. I am not a bad photographer, but if I really want to be as good as I say I do, I need to be honest with myself about some things: I need to watch more tutorials and practice on specific skills. Don’t be afraid of your shortcomings, and don’t sell yourself short when you really are doing a great job right where you are! Being honest with ourselves matters — it’s not always going to feel negative.
On this National Honesty Day, I encourage each of us to ask questions wanting honest answers and taking time to hear others, and I also encourage us to ask questions of ourselves and answer ourselves joyfully and honestly. Live, Love, and Speak truth to others and to yourself (and remember that every now and then keeping the truth to yourself could save someone else’s feelings).
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University who lives in Murfreesboro. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Sometimes, she matches her words and pictures. Always, she writes from her heart with the hope of speaking to the hearts of others.