Things would sure go a lot better if people were just honest. Of course when we think of honesty then concepts such as not lying, cheating, or stealing probably come to mind first. Obviously those activities are not compatible with honesty and are serious and even criminal problems. I think we would all agree that these transgressions are bad for the people who engage in those acts as well as those around them. But the kind of honestly I’m referencing here is on a more subtle emotional level.
I often find myself either involved in, or witness to, a scene in which there is some sort of conflict, but what is being discussed isn’t what the whole disagreement is about. I’ll explain. I was having a conversation with a friend who was describing an ongoing struggle with her husband. They live far out in the country and she is limited to driving to Bloomington (in their non-fuel-efficient truck) only twice a week. This is frustrating for her because she works from home and the trips to town are her only chance to socialize.
I suggested several ways that she could easily make the extra funds needed to allow her enough gas money to make a third trip into town every week. But then I pointed out that this wouldn’t solve the problem because it’s not really about the gas budget. The real issue is that her husband is a very antisocial homebody and doesn’t understand why she feels a need to get together with others. Since having friends and meeting up with them isn’t of value to him, it’s hard for him to understand why it is important to her.
In any case, I thought her solving what he has stated is the problem would at least bring the real problem to light by calling his bluff and showing that it’s not about the gas money. But wouldn’t it be so much more efficient if he just admitted whatever he real concerns were? I suppose he could be using the gas issue as an excuse so that he doesn’t look like he’s trying to squelch her social life but what a waste of time—he throws up a roadblock, she finds a way around it only to find out that it was just a smokescreen for his true objections. All of this could have been bypassed by an honest, open discussion at the outset.
How often do each of us do this in our daily lives? I imagine quite a bit. We say something that we don’t truly mean, especially in an area of conflict with another. Then we get frustrated when the situation continues to annoy us because if anything has gotten solved then it wasn’t what was really the true thing that irritated us deep down in our core. But how can we expect a rift to be healed if we can’t verbalize to the other person what it’s actually about? And how can we express that to another if we can’t even be honest with ourselves in the first place?
For my part, I find that when I’m overreacting to a situation then that’s a good indication that whatever is happening on the surface isn’t what is really bothering me. I have to stop and ask myself what is actually going on. Once I do then I can often adjust my response to the other person and not only react appropriately to the immediate situation, but then decide if it is the right time or place to bring up some deeper emotional feeling that has been triggered. Even if I choose not to disclose whatever is going through my mind, I can at least be aware of it myself so then I will know what my real motivations are.
Being honest with ourselves may mean facing some pretty ugly stuff inside of us. But the only way those things can be healed and eventually no longer a part of us is by being real about their presence to begin with. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t first acknowledge its existence. If we can’t or won’t admit the truth then there’s not much anyone can do to help us. But once we can bring the truth out in the open then there is material to work with and we can progress along a brighter path. It might not be pleasant in the short term but it is well worth it in the long run.