The Road to an Honest Life

BY CHRIS FRYMAN

“Just tell me the truth, and you won’t get in trouble.” – Every mom, everywhere.

What a crock. Granted, it wasn’t my fault that I spilled cola on the new carpet. It was an accident, but there’s still that overwhelming feeling of grief that comes with owning up to a mistake. No, I didn’t get in trouble. I was just told to be more careful. But it wasn’t the lecture that I got from my mom that I was afraid of, it was the fear of accepting my own imperfections that terrified me more than anything.

Come to think of it, it still does. Being completely honest with other people isn’t my strong suit. I’m not saying that I go around lying to everyone about who I am, because I don’t. It’s just that when I think about who truly knows me, the numbers start to dwindle.

Think about it. Who knows you? I’m not asking who knows your name or your major or what building you live in. Who truly knows you? Who knows your fears, your aspirations, your insecurities and doubts? Who knows where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to go from here? Who knows the one thing they could say that could reduce you to tears in an instant? My guess is that the number hovers somewhere around one.

It’s underrated how difficult it is to be absolutely honest with someone. To pour out your heart and soul to someone is no painless task, and letting someone inside to know the real you is nothing short of horrifying.

We have an innate desire to want to be perfect. We want those around us to think we’ve got everything under control. We want looks of admiration from our peers that remind us that we are who we think we are: perfect human beings.

But the thing is, we know we’re not perfect. Everybody knows that they have flaws, and most people will readily admit that they know what at least some of theirs are. We know we’re not perfect. We’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world. So why is it so hard to accept that?

I don’t know if it’s because we don’t want to be vulnerable or if it’s because life is just a giant pissing contest and we don’t want to be the first stream to slow, but everyone takes their imperfections and buries them under layers and layers of makeup, bravado or withdrawal. A lot of folks seem to operate under the mantra that to be vulnerable is to be weak, but I find that it takes true strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be seen as your truest, naked self by those whom you care about.

We fear honesty. It’s as if to be ourselves, to be human, is seen as a fault in its own right. We fear the judgment of others because of our past indiscretions, our feelings and our fears. We know that if we let ourselves be exposed, there is no going back. Once you’ve let someone see who you are, their view of you is forever altered, never to return to what it used to be.

It’s a colossal feat to recognize your fallibility. To know that you’ve done wrong, made a shoddy decision or flat-out lied to someone is one of the most nausea-inducing feelings ever. Your stomach suddenly becomes a brick, your heart races and you find that with every word you try to choke out, speaking becomes as impossible a task as riding a bicycle with square tires. It’s mentally, emotionally and physically crippling to expose yourself to someone in this way because we know that the road it leads down isn’t one that’s brightened by sunshine, lined with beautiful foliage and paved by the construction workers of the gods. No. It’s the one whose light is diminished by an abundance of leafless trees. It’s the one that’s gone unpaved for decades. It’s the one that no normal person would want to take.

All that we can hope for when we travel this road is that there’s someone waiting on the other side with open arms and a smile: someone who accepts your personal pitfalls and loves you in spite of them. Whether there is someone there to greet us at the end of the road or not, we can never know. We can only choose the difficult path and fly through it hoping that everything works out for us. That’s what honesty is.

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