Dare to Be Honest, Part IV
Personal Honesty: A Key to Healthy Living and Effective Relationships.
"Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth."1
In speaking about personal honesty—that is, being honest with one's emotions and motives—the challenge is, how do we learn to be this? It isn't easy. For many, it's like learning a new language. However, there are some positive steps we can take.
First, realize that a normal human being has a whole spectrum of emotions ranging from love, joy, peace, wonder, and all the way through to fear, hurt and anger. These are all God-given emotions. Without them, life would be terribly dull. To be emotionally whole means to be in touch with every human emotion. Unfortunately, when these emotions are denied, they can become ugly. For instance, buried love can turn into lust. Denied fear can turn into phobias. Buried wonder often expresses itself in materialism; that is, instead of loving people and using things, we end up unhappily loving things and using people. And unresolved hurt and anger can turn into bitterness, resentment, and even rage or violence. Or if one turns his anger inward, he can become very depressed and/or physically ill.
Second, we need to see our need and be totally committed to becoming personally honest.
Third, we need to accept responsibility for any problems we have, and consider the possibility that our impaired relationships, dull marriage, unsatisfactory sex life in our marriage, anxiety, depression, destructive habits and any physical symptoms we have, may be caused or greatly aggravated by our own unresolved, supercharged, repressed negative emotions.
Fourth, and most important of all, we need to learn to pray honestly. If necessary, tell God that you don't know how, or are too afraid, to be honest with yourself and need his help. Ask him to give you the courage to see yourself as you are and to face you with the truth about yourself. His answer will probably come in an unexpected way—perhaps through a book, a personal setback, a friend, a difficult or broken relationship, or some other painful situation. Unfortunately, most of us only look at ourselves if we are hurting sufficiently. As C.S. Lewis put it, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Fifth, learn through practice to express your feelings openly and honestly, especially to the people who are important to you. Start with non-threatening feelings such as, "I was really feeling upset today when such and such happened." Or "I sure was scared today when my boss called me into his office."
Keep practicing on the "easy" ones and then, in time, when you're feeling hurt, confused, afraid, frustrated, or angry, admit it and say, "I feel confused or angry." Never say, "You make me mad," or "You hurt me." This blames the other person for our reactions, which are always our responsibility. Identify why you are feeling the way you are. For example, say, "I know my feelings are my problem, and I may be overreacting, but when you speak sharply to me as you just did, I feel hurt and/or angry."
If the person won't accept your feelings, write them out in a letter. If you feel you should give it to him or her, sleep on it and rewrite it (and be sure to pray about it) before doing so. And, as already pointed out, never ever send a first draft. If he or she still won't accept your feelings, try what Gary Smalley and John Trent suggest in their book, The Language of Love. Share how you are feeling by using word pictures; that is, by making up a story or parable that will clearly show how you are feeling.
Finally, if I love you, I will always be open and honest with you and as the Bible suggests, I will always strive to "speak the truth in love." Therefore, I will never blame you for my feelings, but will take full responsibility for them, and for handling and communicating them in a loving, non-vindictive manner.
Denying our faults and feelings, acting them out blindly, or lashing out and hurting others with them, is weak and immature. Acknowledging and talking them out in a responsible manner is a hallmark of the mature adult. It may not be easy, but it is true strength, and is the only way to develop growth producing and intimate relationships.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to always be honest with myself, with you, and with my closest friends and loved ones. Help me to become known as a person who is real, genuine, and an authentic, kind, loving, and accepting person, and thus a clear channel through whom your love can flow. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Proverbs 16:13 (NIV).