A few days ago I stumbled upon the following quote from the book “all about love” by bell hooks:
“Lots of people learn how to lie in childhood. Usually they begin to lie to avoid punishment or to avoid disappointing or hurting an adult. How many of us can vividly recall childhood moments where we courageously practiced the honesty we had been taught to value by our parents, only to find that they did not really mean for us to tell the truth all the time. In far too many cases children are punished in circumstances where they respond with honesty to a question posed by an adult authority figure. It is impressed on their consciousness early on, then, that telling the truth will cause pain. And so they learn that lying is a way to avoid being hurt and hurting others.”
The quote brought back some difficult memories. Telling the truth hurts. Telling the truth is painful. These are feelings that I still all too often associate with honesty. I don’t think I was aware for a long time how painful it can be to tell the truth – especially when the truth makes you happy. For example, I remember telling my parents at the age of 20 that I would like to get married (“Yes, exactly mom, and that although I am a lesbian”) and that I would like it if they came. I can still remember very well the expression on my mother’s face, who was anything but delighted and her words, which were anything but dishonest. At that moment I wished that she lied, that she just lied and at least pretended to be happy for me.
Telling the truth hurts. Telling the truth hurts. 5 years later I want to share as little as possible with them, I am afraid that their honesty hurts me. I don’t want to feel how they can’t be happy for me when I’m happy, I don’t want to be sad when I’m actually happy. It’s holding me back. I consider several times whether I want to share things with them and often reckon with the worst answer to come to the moment of vulnerability before.
The fear of telling the truth has accompanied me since childhood and has not only been passed on to my parents since then. Not only is it hard to be honest with other people, it can sometimes be even harder to be honest with myself. What do I want? Am I allowed to want that? What is my position towards that particular thing? These are the decisive questions. It’s completely absurd, I can’t remember a time in my life when it wouldn’t have been better to tell the truth and yet sometimes I decided to lie – for fear of the consequences, for fear of pain, for change and maybe even for destroying the image someone has of me.
To be honest means to stand by yourself, without ifs and but’s. It also means setting clear limits and expressing needs. Honesty does not mean that everything has to be shared, nor does it mean that everything is kept secret and concealed according to the motto “don’t ask don’t tell”. I think it’s important to find a middle ground between the two.
The following questions can help:
What do I need to know to feel safe?
Why is it so hard to hear anything beyond that?
Would I like to hear it later?
When it comes to honesty, the time plays a decisive role. Being considerate and respectful is important when it comes to honesty. Some want to share more details and information from their love affairs, play dates, one-night stands, first dates, etc., others prefer not to hear anything or as little as possible about it. The latter, and here I count myself in at certain times in my life, it can help to get information in small bits. It is also helpful to read the information and not to be told face to face. This gives you more time to deal with your first feelings without immediately taking the other person by surprise. The emotional chaos sometimes takes a small moment to settle in. Not everything that feels like shit in the first moment stays that way in the second moment.
I don’t know how many of you feel that you have to learn a positive attitude towards honesty, but I definitely count myself among them. It was hard for me to admit that I didn’t dare to address an open relationship in my then-closed relationship. I knew exactly what I wanted, but I just didn’t dare. It sometimes takes a lot of effort and time to be honest with oneself, it also sometimes leads to reconsidering the image one has of oneself and yes, it is sometimes also (very) hurtful to hear the truth.
Despite all this, it feels good when I know what I want, when I can stand by it and stand up for myself. I also appreciate it very much when I can have the certainty that other people trust me to deal with the truth and give them the feeling that I always prefer the truth to a delusion. I couldn’t be happy in a relationship where honesty isn’t one of the main aspects that people always focus on. In the end, I think it’s always better to try to be honest, even if it may hurt and hurt. I prefer to know where I stand and the challenges I face rather than assume, for example, that my fellow human beings can cope with my poly relationship and are absolutely happy for me. I would rather confront myself with the facts than with an illusion, because when that breaks, and it usually does, it hurts even more than the truth itself.