From the Self Creation Archives
Radical Honesty, Really?
On Friday, January 16th, 1999 John Stossel of the ABC 20/20 News team did a story on Brad Blanton’s book “Radical Honesty: How to transform your life by telling the truth.” I watched it to find out what exactly he meant by “radical.”
As it turns out, Radical Honesty is ...well...honesty. What astounded me most about the program was that people thought telling the truth was a radical idea. Don’t you find that just a bit odd?
At the end of the story, Barbara Walters even warned viewers, “don't try this at home without someone trained in this.” Tears ran down my face as I rocked with laughter and disbelief. Don't try this at home?!? Honesty?!? Are we so lost that we regard honesty as a dangerous pursuit without a trained “non-liar” at our sides?? Has the world become so warped that we consider telling the truth, a dangerous exercise? It seemed extremely bizarre to me.
But upon reflection, maybe it's not so outlandish. Haven't all of us been taught that it's better to lie to someone than to hurt their feelings? That there are just some things you simply never, never tell another? We're not suppose to tell anyone when we've had an extramarital affair, especially not our spouse. And god-forbid we're honest with each other about sexual matters.
But have we become so adept at lying, that we've forgotten that we are, in fact, lying? Have we forgotten how to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Perhaps we were taught to lie because we as a society believe we’re actually capable of hurting someone’s feelings. We believe we have that kind of power.
So who's responsible for how we or another chooses to respond to words? If you truly had the power to make people feel certain emotions, then you should be able to create other people's reactions at will. If you said the same thing to a thousand people, you should be able to get an identical emotional response from all of them. But the fact is, you’d get as many different responses as there are people. Each would react according to their belief systems and interpretations of your meaning.
Let’s do a silly exercise and go around the country saying, “you have a big butt,” Men, women and children – no one escapes our little experiment.
Now, what do you think the reactions would be? You'd think most would be upset. But you'll find some children will run away, and some will giggle. Some women will breakdown right in front of you and some will smile and say thank you. Some men will knock your lights out, and some will look at you like you've lost your mind. One statement – thousands of reactions.
The surprising thing is, the size of their derrière won’t even be the deciding factor in how they respond. Some people think their fanny is huge, even though it’s quite average. In some cultures, large bottoms are considered attractive. Some people LIKE their big butts! I know personally I wish mine was bigger.
So where is your power? What about your ability to make someone feel angry or hurt?
Seems each individual you spoke to, made the decision about how they would respond. People's responses are based on many factors, all of which are personal and have nothing to do with you.
If people understood everyone is responsible for their own emotions, we'd feel freer to say what we think and feel. Most times, it's our own lack of trust in ourselves to be able to deal with other people’s reactions. That’s the true stumbling block to our honesty. “I’ll feel bad if they feel bad.”
Because face it, some people will get angry and hurt in reaction to your honesty. But the alternative of going through life filled with lies is not much of an alternative. We end up walking around on eggshells, monitoring our every word, and trying to predict how others might respond. It's a slow, awkward process of communication.
I agree with Dr. Blanton. Honesty about everything is truly the door to intimacy, love, and exceptional relationships. Without it, we're all just actors on a stage, reading our scripted lines. And to some degree, I think everyone knows we're pretending to be truthful. It's a scam, one we're pulling over our own eyes.
I have this impossible dream about everyone on earth standing up, and all at the same time shouting out, “I'm a liar!” And as we all look at each other, we could laugh and start fresh.
Imagine being real and genuine with each other. Imagine what the world would be like if you could actually believe what people tell you. It might get a bit rocky at times, but it would “radically” change the world.