The most painful thing in my life hasn’t been losing a loved one (although I have experienced heart wrenching loses). It isn’t in my failures (even though I have had moments where all I could do is watch helplessly as everything I had worked so hard for crashed and burned). It isn’t a physical ailment, and it isn’t some repressed childhood memory.
The thing that I dread, avoid at all costs and causes me more anxiety and pain is honesty. Now I’m not saying that I am a liar and everything that I say and do is false. I actually feel like I am a pretty honest person. When an employee at the local movie theatre assumes I am a student and freely offers me the student discount I don’t feel completely comfortable excepting it. When I am given too much change at the grocery store I will go back and return the extra money. I strive to live by the advice of Count Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy who said, “Always do what is right. This will surprise some people and astonish the rest."
When it comes to being honest with things that are a little more personal and closer to home however, I would rather distance myself from people and be someone else. I find it easier than being transparent and sincere with them.
I guess a lot of my hurts, fears and cautiousness about being too honest can be traced back to experiences I have had or have witnessed in church. I learned early on that in church it was best not to be completely honest. Church can be a dangerous place to share your skeletons that wait collecting dust in the closet. Sadly some people would rather go to a bar, have a few drinks and spill their guts to the bartender than lower their defenses in a church setting. I know that Jesus wants His home to be a place of freedom and rest—a place where you can lay down your burdens, be forgiven, loved and accepted. Unfortunately it is a place where, many times, masks are worn, and the acting is so superb that an Oscar nomination would be appropriate.
The truth is, honesty is dangerous. You have to guard yourself and be cautious about being too honest and open with everyone you meet. Unfortunately people can trample on your honesty, turn it into a weapon to inflict harm and leave you to clam up your feelings and build a shell with to protect yourself.
Recently I went camping with a group of old friends to escape the world for a few days and relax. It was your typical guys camping trip filled with juvenile humor, campfire stories and dangerous late afternoon ideas conceived out of boredom to pass the time (think of games that involve an axe).
On the final morning of camping we gathered around to read a passage of the Bible and then get on with the day … it just seemed like a good thing to do. The atmosphere created by natures surrounding beauty and a time of prayer made it feel safe among friends who trusted one another. Little did anyone know it would turn into a sort of confessional time. No, we were not spilling our deepest sins and repenting, but someone in the group felt it was time to admit a lifelong struggle with depression. The honesty and openness of that act then allowed others to feel safe to share some of their deep hurts and wounds that they had been hiding but needed to get off their chests. Without sounding too emotional about the whole experience, I will say that I won’t ever forget it, and I think we are all a little closer because of it.
You see, honesty is hard and painful, but dishonesty, lies or even just hidden secrets are exhausting. It is funny that at times in my life where I had to be truthful with someone and lay it all out on the table I agonized and tried my best to put it off as long as I could. Yet, once I finally got the courage to finally share with this person, and it was accepted graciously it was such a weigh off of my shoulders. I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to talk to that person.
We live in a you have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, color your graying hair, lose 30 pounds, listen to your IPod while your jogging and then don’t forget to stop for a Starbucks on the way to work kind of world. There is an unbelievable amount of pressure we have in this country of ours. Then we have the added difficulties of dealing with our upbringings, religion, class and so on—that shapes who we think we should be or at least what everyone else thinks we should be.
I hope you will be encouraged to strive to be an honest person. I believe that honesty is contagious and God knows we need so much more of it in our world. I read a great quote from Leo Buscaglia an author and Professor at The University of Southern California that says, “The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.” Dishonesty is exhausting, and I believe not being yourself is being dishonest.
Its time for all of us to find a place to lay down our burdens and rest.
2 Corinthians 9:8