Guest Post: I'm Fine
Today's guest blogger is Eileen Parry.
We all want honesty, when it's convenient for us.
That's not a statement about our character, but about all of humanity.
Being honest is hard. Not just for the one being honest, but for those who are hearing it. There is something easy and sometimes comforting about telling a lie or withholding the truth. You feel as though you are protecting someone, doing them a service by not telling the truth. That someone might be a colleague, an acquaintance or a loved one. More often than not though, that someone is you.
When you have a million thoughts racing through your head—sometimes dark, angry and terrible thoughts—you have to decide if you're going to share them with the people in your life. Sharing can mean support, but the fear inside you says that it will ultimately mean rejection. So, when asked how you are or what you're thinking, it is easy and at times reflexive to respond with "I'm fine", to leave out the macabre details of your thoughts and respond with a more wholesome answer when in reality you're screaming inside. For most, this is all they are hoping to hear when they pose the question. They want to be lied to. They don't want the truth and the complications that go along with it. These lies protect both you and the person doing the asking.
"I think we’re searching for that person(s) that will want your honesty even when it’s not convenient, when they want to help no matter the reason."
The above was said by someone I care deeply about. He reminds us of what we strive for, a desperate desire to find those who want us to be honest. You have people in your life about whom you care and to whom you hope not to lie, but still you find the lies slipping through. When you're in a relationship the ultimate goal is for all involved parties to be happy. I believe there is only one time in the relationship where honesty is pushed for and that would be just after the relationship begins. We all put on a facade when meeting a new person, so as not to run them off. Once the attraction has been established and there begins a level of trust, the flood gates open and the truth pours out. Truths about insecurities, past actions, future plans, fears, etc. This does not last and cannot last. This is a special time in a relationship when all parties are willing to let down their own walls and hear what there is to hear. Reality will inevitably set in and change the dynamic.
As all relationships continue we find that we begin to lie again. Sometimes we lie to the people we care about because telling the truth would make them hurt worse. Perhaps showing that we are hurting would only make their pain worse, and so we lie. We grit our teeth and pretend we aren't hurting.
This goes both ways. Sometimes we need to be lied to.
Some things are far more important than the truth at a given moment. Time spent with family need not be interrupted by negative cognitions and feelings of woe. An important presentation, time sensitive task or ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity deserves all of our attention. These times we need to be lied to, to ensure we are focusing on the moment rather than pulling our attention in another direction.
We all often overestimate our own ability to help others and to be able to listen without causing ourselves pain. More than once I have asked for honesty from a partner only to find that when I get it, I wish they had said nothing. Everyone has their own truth, their own reality, and their own life that they're handling (however successfully), and these don’t fit perfectly with what's going on in everyone else's truths, realities, and lives. The truth we have to tell may shake their reality and so they pull away. Where before you were praised on your honesty, you now find yourself faced with rejection. Your truth and honesty overstepped their boundaries and the only course of action in their mind was to shut you out. They wanted to hear the lie and accept it and perhaps you should have done so. Bite your tongue to let them live their life.
Like everyone, I'm dealing with my own shortcomings and trying to rationalize them by understanding humanity is limited. Remembering it's not a personal choice but a structural limitation. This gives a small amount of comfort, but in truth it feels hollow, a sad reality that no matter what we hope for, we are painfully limited in our actual ability to achieve.
I type many of these thoughts while lying in bed with tears running down my face. Life is hard when all you want to do is be honest. The lies come so much easier than the truth, and so we do.
So if you’re asking, I’m fine.