Tuesday, June 21, 2011

“Rigorous Honesty”

We talk about this life of Recovery as being one of ‘rigorous honesty’. Honesty is the first spiritual principle we begin practicing when we start working the program. It begins with the honest admission that we have the disease and that we need help. From there, it spreads gradually to every aspect of our lives.

There’s a lot more to being honest than just not telling lies anymore. There are lies of omission, the things we don’t say, secrets we don’t share. Those can be as devastating as any outright lie. We don’t say we’re only as sick as our secrets for nothing. (A quick owning of my own stuff, here: I tend to be a little harsher on this point because I’ve been burned in the past by those lies of omission.)

Probably the most difficult part of the Honesty stuff is learning to be honest with ourselves. We are so good at self-deception, at rationalizing. We can find a reasonable explanation for any behavior. We’re addicts; denial is second-nature to us. The good news is that we can learn a different way. We can learn to be honest with ourselves about our wants, our needs, our true desires and motivations. It takes time and it takes practice, but that is the work of Recovery.

I was seeing a therapist for a while who talked a lot about emotional honesty. That’s an important one, too. We can be technically not lying, or not keeping secrets, but we still aren’t being fully (or rigorously) honest. Maybe we know something that we think shouldn’t be shared because it isn’t anyone else’s business. But we still feel that sinking feeling in our stomach. That intuition there is our spiritual selves letting us know something’s still not right. I read a great quote once about the need to listen to our conscience--it’s the measure of our selfishness.

Being honest is a part of being someone of integrity. People learn that they can trust us because we aren’t hiding anything. We give them the full truth, our honest perspective on things. We present an honest version of ourselves. We are who we say we are, nothing hidden, no hammer coming down or wild outburst waiting around the corner. This is the type of person we strive to be.

One of my favorite sayings is that no one trusts an honest man. I love that because it’s so true. Is honesty really so rare in our culture today? You’re damn right it is. Hidden agendas, hidden motives, secret plots, plans and pre-conceived notions. Everyone is so used to being lied to that when they’re confronted with someone who is honest, they don’t always know how to handle it. Personally, I think that shit’s hilarious.

What about the ‘little white lies’? I know a lot of people out there believe that ‘little white lies’ are okay, maybe even good, that they’re the glue that holds society together. I happen to disagree. There’s always a way to speak the truth in love, it’s just harder. Then again, if this Recovery way of life were easy, everyone would do it.

I prefer to challenge myself, to work on being honest with myself, and to strive to be emotionally honest with others. Sometimes that means I say things people don’t want to hear. Sometimes it means I have to say things I don’t really want to say, but that’s okay. For me, the point is to walk the spiritual path, try to be a person of integrity, that way I can know I’ve kept my side of the street clean. How others deal with that, how they deal with me and how I live my life now? That’s their opinion, and someone else’s opinion of me ain’t none of my business.

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