We’re not always honest all the time to everyone. It would take so much longer to get even the most mundane tasks done if we were completely transparent and vulnerable to every person we encountered. The fact remains though that honesty is a bit of a lost relic in our world. It’s not that it’s not there, it’s just that it is often so mucked over with filters, with half-truths, and with hurriedness that we sometimes lose sight of the imperative nature of honesty.
I process things in my own way. So do you. I process things slowly. Maybe you’re a faster processor than I am. I bet you are. When presented with a question, or a truth, or new information my tendency is to take it in and shut the door. Have you ever walked up to the front door of a local business and its the middle of the work day but they’ve got one of those “Will Return” blue and white plastic clock signs hanging on the door? Yep, my brain is kind of like that when it receives new information.
When that information is processed, it’s integrated into what was already there. If it’s information that is more correct/true than what was there, it effectively replaces what was there. This is how our brains work. We learn, we grow, we change, we adapt, we become different thinkers every single day. Your brain is not the exact same organ it was even seconds ago when you started reading this blog post. It has changed itself based on all the input it has received.
This is why honesty is an absolute imperative. It is through honesty that we most effectively handle all this new information. This may seem like the simplest of statements, but I assure you it is not the case in all situations. The concept of truthfulness–perhaps because of the very idea of truth being perpetually on trial–is a slippery one at best. It’s one that many people might find unworthy of arguing over in what has been referred to as our “post-Christian” culture. (I should write sometime and make my case about how I don’t think the term “post-Christian” accurately describes the current state of America.)
I’ve found that honesty also unlocks every jail cell we can construct for ourselves. Honesty is a liberator waiting to be unleashed to its work. Not only that, but nothing else and no one else can do that work; nothing else is qualified or has the power that truth does. This is precisely why Jesus famously said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
A blog is no place to prescribe to you what this looks like for your day today. But I’d wager a bet that it does somehow connect very intimately with a situation you are currently in. So, may I offer you a set of questions to answer honestly?
- What does full honesty–no matter what–cost me?
- What are the predicted outcomes of being totally honest; both positive and negative?
- What is it that is my biggest obstacle to honesty right now? Is it fear? Is it past hurt? Is it insecurity?
- When and why did I construct the jail cell I feel my emotions are in because I haven’t been fully honest?
As a young person, I spent a season of my life lying almost exclusively. I wanted what I wanted and when I wanted it, no matter who got hurt. So I lied freely. I was numb to the devastation I was creating because I was blinded to see it, at least most of it. And what I did see was merely collateral damage worth the hurt because I was getting the things my selfish, sinful heart wanted.
My mom is an incredibly wise person. In the heyday of the deceptive lifestyle of my youth she likened dishonesty to digging. Each lie is a shovelful of sand. (I grew up at the beach, so this word picture was rich and poignant.) She showed me that each time I decided not to be honest, I was scooping a shovelful of sand, creating a deeper hole that I was living in. You may not know this, but many people have died on beaches in America simply by having fun digging holes in the sand. There’s a point at which the walls of the hole cannot support the weight of the surrounding sand and the hole collapses into itself, burying whatever or whoever is in the hole. My mom chose this imagery to teach me about lying and honesty.
So, what hole are you digging right now? I’m not encouraging us to honesty simply so that we feel better about ourselves or we can take some moral high ground. No, not at all. I want for you what I want for me: I want you to live in the freedom that honesty affords. My mom also taught me that the only way to live freely is to live honestly. Otherwise you have a much heavier load to bear. Each lie is another brick you must carry with you. This is because you have to keep track of lies, but not keep track of truth. You actively change details when you lie, but the details of truth aren’t like that. So on a very practical level, you don’t have to work nearly as hard to live an honest life as you do a dishonest life. Life is hard enough, why add to the load by being less than honest?
I suppose though that my main motivation in pushing us to full honesty is so that our hearts have nothing–absolutely nothing–between ourselves and God. The smallest grain of sand between my heart and the heart of God is still something. All spiritual progress and growth is interrupted and short-circuited by dishonesty. We cannot and will not grow in grace or draw close in worship while still holding dishonesty in our hearts. These two things cannot be reconciled. You are either dishonest and further from God than you need to be by your own choosing, or you are fully honest and are continually growing in grace and intimacy with God. This seems overly simplistic, but this is the truth.
If you don’t know where to start and if all this talk of honesty and holes and jail cells seems overwhelming to your mind and heart, then simply start with Jesus. He IS the Truth. (John 14:6) There is no truth apart from Him. Our relativistic and pluralist society would say that each of us have truths that are wildly different and yet somehow compatible. This is the height of nonsense. An atheist says there is no God. A theist says there is. Our culture says, “You’re both right.” The very nature of truth won’t allow this however. And the person of Jesus not merely embodies truth; He IS Truth. So if you don’t know where to go with these thoughts, start with Jesus. Approach Him. Ask Him. Embrace Him. Let He who IS Truth set you free from the crushing bondage of dishonesty.