Personal Honesty: Key to Effective Relationships Part II
"But you [God] desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being."1
In speaking about personal honesty in regard to interpersonal relationships, best-selling author, Dr. John Powell, believes that "most of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others, and, having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships. Consequently, we ourselves do not grow, nor do we help anyone else to grow. Meanwhile, we have to live with repressed emotions—a dangerous and self-destructive path to follow. Any relationship which is to have the nature of true personal encounter must be based on honest, open, gut-level communication. The alternative is to remain in my prison, to endure inch-by-inch death as a person."2
Denial of emotions (and motives) also causes the exaggeration of opposite characteristics. Saccharine-sweet people often seethe inwardly with hostility. People who withdraw take their anger out on others in underhanded passive-aggressive ways. Withdrawal is a "dirty way to fight." The dogmatic are riddled with self-doubts. The overconfident are insecure. The extremely prudish are overcompensating for sexual inadequacies. Others silence painful feelings in over-busyness or go-go-go activity, substance dependency, destructive behavior, overeating, constant talking, unbalanced religious fervor, theological rigidity, a controlling attitude, and so on.
Others project their faults onto others, seeing in them the very faults that lie hidden within themselves. They simply cannot accept in others what they refuse to accept in themselves. Or they might displace their bad feelings by taking them out on somebody else. For example, Fred may be angry at his boss, but fearing he may lose his job if he says anything, takes his feelings out on his wife and children.
We can also become experts at rationalization. For example, when we deny our fears, we can unconsciously sabotage our relationships, or set ourselves up to fail in certain situations. We then brush off our failures by making excuses, blaming others, or even by saying what happened must have been God's will!
The challenge is, how do we learn to be honest with ourselves? It isn't easy. For many, it's like learning a new language. And as long as we are not honest with ourselves, there is no way we can be honest with God or anyone else. And without personal honesty, it is impossible to have closeness and true intimacy with anybody. However, there are some positive steps we can take. We will discuss these in tomorrow's Daily Encounter.
To be continued ...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to get in touch with all my emotions and my motives, and be honest about these so that I will know wisdom in my innermost being. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Psalm 51:6 (NLT).
2. John Powell, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, p. 61. Argus Communications, San Mateo, Illinois. Copyright 1969. Used by permission.