Have you ever held back a moment of honesty with someone because you were afraid it might hurt?
Afraid that the honest truth would hurt them, or they’d hurt you or a relationship would be damaged?
Only to later have the hurt and damage happen anyway?
More people are hurt from lies than from truth.
Not even just the big lies – those are easy to expose. It’s the little ones that are infinitely more dangerous.
The “I’m Fine’s” as someone’s world falls apart so nobody notices until it’s too late.
By the time they’re ready to admit something is not right, by the time other people start to notice, the surface facade is so far from what is really going on that to admit one truth is to open up a can of worms and expose often years and years of half truths and white lies that all seem too much to handle.
What started as just admitting they’re not ok has now become admitting that they’re not ok AND that they’ve been lying to their loved ones all this time about it, long beyond the time where it would’ve been an easy solution, embarrassing perhaps but solveable. To a point where the hole is so deep that there will be many casualties in climbing their way out.
In many cases people hold back their truth to protect the relationship but what relationship is it if you can’t be honest?
The people with the problem hold back the truth for fear of judgment, embarrassment, blame or shame. The people suspecting a problem hold back asking deeper questions for fear of hurting the other and instead find it easier to hope that the surface story is true.
But deep down the rot is festering.
There is a reason so many people say they never saw it coming when a friend commits suicide.
It’s because neither were brave enough to be honest about the signs.
There’s a reason why the suicide rate is so much higher amongst Men.
It’s because “real men don’t talk about their feelings” and the ego on both sides would rather be dead than admit they’re not perfect, they made a mistake, they have a problem they don’t know how to get out of.
Well congratulations Ego. In many cases that is exactly how it turns out.
But there are always signs.
There is always someone who didn’t believe the “I’m fine” but didn’t have the courage to be honest and delve deeper for fear of the resentment. For fear of losing the relationship. For fear of not being loved – the only true fear that exists.
News flash- we ALL fear not being loved. We ALL fear judgement because to be judged would mean to be cast out from the tribe and to be cast out from the tribe would have meant death by Sabre tooth tiger.
Our creature comforts may have evolved but our emotional brains have not.
If you truly love someone you have to trust that creating a safe space without judgement for the truth will be more important for the long run and show them there is a way back.
As the friend who picks up the warning signal, you have to make a call – is it preferable to risk losing a friendship and keeping them alive or keeping a fake friendship and standing at their funeral saying “I wish I’d said something?”
Avoiding the little truths helps no one. They just build up to become the big truths and those are usually way harder to fix.
As the person with the problem – face it. In most cases problems seem so insurmountable in our heads because the thinking that created the problem can’t notice the solution. It’s like not being able to see the wood for the trees!
But it is true when they say “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Not with everyone but when you share the problem with someone who cares about you and your happiness they can help you come up with options to find a way out. That doesn’t mean they have to or even should fix it for you, and it means sometimes copping a dose of “well that was dumb wasn’t it” and taking a hit to the ego.
But it does give you the opportunity to have some help to unravel the Christmas lights as it were.
Regardless of how big we let the problems get, there is still a way out. There are always options, no matter how painful, but the longer we avoid honesty the bigger the problem gets, the longer it takes to heal.
Most people see life either better than it is or worse than it is but very few face life as it is.
Most people live in the past – blaming or resenting what they can’t change, or in the future intending or hoping things will get better, rather than in the present, observing, understanding and changing current behaviour which is the only true power we have.
Intention only matters in the context of behaviour and behaviour only matters in the context of intention. How long should we let people with good intentions get away with bad behaviour? How long should we be blinded by acceptable behaviour as a distraction from bad intentions?
How long will you tolerate someone causing pain to others before you say something?
How long will you tolerate someone causing pain to themselves before you say something?
How long will you tolerate Being in pain before you say something?
But Truth also Heals.
And it might not even be that life or death of a situation yet.
It could just be a relationship you’re unhappy in and don’t know how to let the other know.
It could be a Child you’re trying to protect but tolerating behaviour that is out of control.
Kids are designed to test boundaries, it is how they learn to understand who they are and how to be, but if we’re not honest with what is acceptable and what is not – how will they learn? And what hope do they have as adults? They will continue the behaviour until someone stops tolerating it – don’t let that be a jail warden or their future children or when they can’t hold down any job or relationship and end up all alone.
At what point do you say enough is enough? At what point do you say “I love you but your behaviour is unacceptable” even if it makes them cry? At what point do you say “no, we will not be tolerating this anymore” even if they get angry or hurt?
At what point does the risk of silence finally outweigh the risk of honesty?
When they hurt you? When they hurt themselves? When they hurt others?
What if the truth you could’ve said is something that would’ve prevented hurt later? What if the honest feedback about someone’s behaviour allowed them to change it before it caused serious damage to themselves and others?
What is your honesty threshold?
When you first notice it?
When it’s gone on too long?
Or when it’s really too late because they’re not around to hear the feedback?
The past is done, can’t change it.
But next time you’re presented a choice between protecting egos or honesty, think long and hard about the decision you’re about to make.
At the end of the day you have to live with them resenting your honesty or you regretting your silence. Which one will hurt you more?
Honesty with others starts with honesty with ourselves. Anything less than this will lead to an incongruent and unfulfilled life where we’ll always be afraid of being found out.
It leads to a void we try to fill with addictions and more lies because if we don’t like who we are how can we believe others will?
It is a neverending snowball until we draw the line in the sand and decide that the honest relationship with ourselves and possibility of that with others is worth more than anything else.
There are no Sabre tooth tigers threatening our day to day life anymore. We aren’t limited by location and needing to be accepted by people in our immediate vicinity. We are not a tree, we can move. We can risk false friendships for the sake of real ones.
We can risk saying what needs to be said if it means protecting others in the long run.
We can risk the resentment from others for the possibility that a grain of truth may take root and be the one thing that allows them to change something for the better.
We just have to face the truth. Even when it hurts.
Or not and accept the possibility resenting yourself for your silence.