When was the last time you were brutally honest? When you spoke your mind in a bold and authentic way. So bold, that five minutes later, you didn’t know if you could ever show your face again, but it felt so damn good inside.
Chances are you can’t even recall the last time you did exactly that. Many people have completely lost touch with what it means to be brutally honest, and just go with the flow of whatever life expects of them, no questions asked. It might just be that you’re living a life that’s totally out of touch with whom you really are.
Maybe you still chill with the same group of friends from way back every weekend, even though things just don’t feel right. It just might be that you secretly hate one of your friends, because they’ve betrayed your trust more times than you can count, but you never spoke up. You never found the balls to be brutally honest, and your other friends told you to just let it slide.
And so you just linger along to keep things just the way they are because that’s known territory for you. The devil that you know is better than the devil you don’t, right?
On the surface, you’re the best friend ever, but dig just a little deeper, and you’ll find a liar. A liar who not only lies to the world, but to himself as well. A liar so out of touch with himself that he doesn’t even know he does this.
A liar that confused being nice and complacent with honesty and completely forgot about it.
What is honesty?
Honesty is one of those things that’s a no-brainer. It’s a virtue everyone agrees on. We’ve all been taught from an early age that we should be honest. When we can count on other people being truthful and sincere, we feel confident we are safe, or at least we know what to expect, and we can act accordingly.
Honesty is when you don’t do morally wrong things. When we dissect honesty, we find virtues such as truthfulness, integrity, straightforwardness, loyalty, fairness, and sincerity. But, we also find the absence of cheating, lying, and refraining from doing anything that’s not, well, not honest.
Not lying and not stealing are things that are reasonably easy to do. It just means not doing things, but what about the things you should do?
Can you honestly say you’re straightforward, that you always speak your truth and that you are loyal not just to others, but to yourself as well? Can you say that when you don’t lie, but also don’t speak up when you have to, that you’re being honest? Can you say that when you’re always straightforward, except when your opinion doesn’t match that of the crowd, that you’re honest?
When you look at what honesty is as a whole, can you say you’re genuinely honest?
Why we’re not honest
Honesty is a virtue on which a healthy social construct, a safe environment, thrives, and that’s precisely what we use honesty for: to be safe. And if that means being dishonest under a mask of honesty, so be it.
We’ve been taught to read the situation and assess whether it’s safe to be honest. And in most cases, the answer is no. Speaking out is always scary, even when what you say fully aligns with what everyone agrees on.
We’ve learned that being honest all the time creates dangerous situations that aren’t beneficial for us personally. For example, when we told little Joey in kindergarten not to steal our lunch, he kicked our ass. When we told mom, her food tastes terrible, she called us ungrateful. Or that time when we gave our excellent manager constructive feedback, and two weeks later we got fired.
And so we abide by the status quo of whatever system we travel in. We apply regulated honesty, so we have the smoothest, most comfortable ride possible. We create an honest persona that’s carefully crafted to fit the narrative of our community. On the surface, we seem to be genuinely honest people, but there’s a complicated system running in the back to keep the facade going. A system that meticulously assesses what our next move should be to stay as safe as possible.
We opt for the safe version of honesty, a version that might even be worse than being a flat out liar. A version that tells the occasional honest lie, but mostly refrains from saying anything at all.
Imagine a world where everyone runs a program of safe honesty. It’s a tricky construct where destruction is just around the corner. A place where unicorns and rainbows turn ugly fast.
Choosing brutal honesty
So, what’s the alternative? The alternative is being brutally honest all the time. But, what does that even mean?
Being brutally honest means speaking your mind, no matter the consequences. It means you’re willing to offend some people, to take an unpopular stance, because your truth is more important than anything else. It means that you’re daring to look what’s wrong in the face and tell it the damn truth, even if that what is wrong is you (more on that later on). It means that if your honesty doesn’t vibe with the status quo, you’re willing to leave. No matter what.
Brutal honesty means you no longer neglect the giant elephant that’s sitting in the room. It’s calling out the elephant and telling it to get the fuck out of the way. But, being brutally honest isn’t a free pass to be an asshole. It means that you’re mindful of your words because you understand words have power to them.
When you are brutally honest, you show your true colors, and people can anticipate on that. Maybe they don’t like you all the time, but they definitely know your worth and what they can expect from you. By being brutally honest, being bold and speaking your mind, you create a solid foundation for the people around you and for yourself.
If you’re a wild ocean, you show your devastating waves and people can act accordingly when they get the surfboard out, and that’s so much better than acting like you’re a smooth surface, but right underneath it, there’s a vortex that sucks people in and suffocates them.
Why we aren’t brutally honest
We aren’t brutally honest for the simple reason that we’re scared. Because we want to belong to our surroundings, it’s in our DNA. It’s how we survived and thrived on this giant floating rock. We need each other. But, if we don’t truly trust the people around us, we play it safe. After all, why would you be vulnerable when you’re surrounded by predators?
Can you truly trust the people around you? Can you confidently say that when shit hits the fan, your people got your back? Probably not, because chances are you wouldn’t go the extra mile for them as well.
Even though everything seems all well and dandy on the surface, there’s a war going on just below. We secretly don’t trust other people, because we know we can’t really be trusted as well. We aren’t brutally honest because we think that when we’re truly open, people have the upper hand on us. We’re living in a world where everyone’s personal truth is hidden behind several masks. Most times, we can’t even reach our truth ourselves anymore through the spiderweb of masks we’ve carefully crafted.
We politely smile when we’re talking with someone, while we think dark thoughts of strangling the fuck out of them. Your mind rationalizes what happened and twists the story, “yeah, it’s good you didn’t speak up because it would work against you.” But, while your mind is playing tricks on you, your soul is screaming on the inside.
Sure, a conscious lie every now and then doesn’t hurt, but if we add all those small moments in a day, we end up with a lot of lies. The price we pay is so much higher than the five minutes of convenience we get by refraining from being honest. The worst part is we aren’t just lying to the people around us, we’re lying to ourselves.
Every time we conform to the norm and neglect our inner spirit, every time we choose to give a politically correct answer for the sake of being liked, we kill a bit of ourselves. We become just a fragment of who we really are. We become inauthentic people that buy entirely into our own lie.
Being brutally honest with yourself
In the end, if we’re not brutally honest with ourselves, we rob ourselves from the possibility to grow, to heal from past trauma, to really go through a process, and to become better people. If you want to become your full potential, you have to be brutally honest.
And being brutally honest, especially with yourself, hurts.
It means you have to look yourself dead in the eye and acknowledge that you’re wounded, that you’ve made mistakes, that at times you’ve put yourself to shame, and that you might even live a life that makes it too hard for you to really look yourself in the eyes.
It means that you accept that you are nowhere near to what you aspired to become 20 years ago.
It means you have to forgive yourself and make amends with all the wrong you did in your life. It means you’ll feel the pressure of needing to change more than ever. And changing is hard work, better yet, it’s damn near impossible.
Our character trades are embedded so deep inside us, the odds of us becoming better people are entirely stacked against us. Even if we’re fully motivated to change, our entire system and the world works against us to keep things just the way they are.
But you have to be honest, get that shit out of your system.
Speaking the truth is medicine. It’s therapeutic. But it works the other way as well: If you don’t speak up when you should, not only are you lying to yourself, the wrongness will become part of you. Left or right, you’ll absorb the given scenario, whether you speak up or not, determines how it enters your system.
If you want to be brutally honest, you have to be brave, because you need to make some radical decisions. What if you find out your group of friends from way back sucks balls? Will you leave them? If you leave them, you’ll be alone, who wants that? What will you do?
Being brutally honest is one thing, dealing with the consequences is an entirely different challenge.
When you start being brutally honest
In a world where being offended, safe spaces, and being triggered are at an all-time high, being brutally honest is harder than ever before. Add to this that we live in a world where reality is hidden behind Instagram filters and get-rich-quick schemes, and being brutally honest feels like a mission impossible.
But, if you want to live an authentic life, you have to be brutally honest. Brutally honest with yourself and with your surroundings.
Being brutally honest takes self-awareness, confidence, and self-respect. Even when the world doesn’t opt for being brutally honest, it pays to go the brutal way.
And if everyone would do that, the world would change drastically.
New energy and creativity would flow through our lives. We would have sincere connections. People would dare to open up, to speak up, and as a result, we could genuinely trust the people around us. We may not agree with others, but we respect each other for standing behind what we believe in.
Brutally honest people step up and stand for what they believe in. They won’t abide by the status quo. And while people might not agree with what they say, they do something the people don’t dare doing: They speak up when remaining silent is a crime, and secretly we respect them for that.
In a moment of brutal honesty, the honest person might have all the eyes on them, they might be the odd one in. But, when the dust settles, they are free and have a good night’s rest, while the rest stays imprisoned. But, the prison isn’t the hard part. The hard part is living with the feeling that you had to speak up when you didn’t. That you sold your soul to the devil in return for some comfort, some mediocrity, to belong to something that’s built upon lies.
The brutally honest one might stand alone, but stands strong like an oak in the storm, with its roots deep down hell and leaves reaching far into heaven. He might not be surrounded by much, but whatever is around him genuinely wants to be there, and it’s more real than anything else.
Because when everything is said and done, at least he can look himself straight in the face, smile, and say, “I did the right thing.”
Photo credit: Daniel Jensen