They say that honesty is the best policy and George Washington never told a lie. To be honest is to be honourable but why does this honesty feel so damn heavy?
‘Do I look fat in this?’ My mouth says ‘Of course you don’t, you look great’ but my mind says you do look better in that other outfit. Do these little white lies chip away at my honesty and integrity over time? To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure but what I do know is that the black and white nature that I used to approach the subject of honesty proved to be psychologically damaging to me over time.
Honesty becomes simpler and lighter when I take away my moralistic approach to it. I can for the first time in my life use honesty as a barometer that helps me move towards the life I wish to create. I can use honesty to more accurately measure my current lot in life. I can honestly assess my health, my wealth and the quality of my relationships. I can get a better idea of the impact I am having in the world and what corner of the Earth I truly wish to inhabit.
I used to believe that if I didn’t feel guilt for the misfortune of other people then I was some sort of evil emotionless robot. With this misunderstanding I took on the weight of the world. I felt guilty for the wars I didn’t start, I felt guilty for another person’s interpretation of my intentions and actions and I felt guilty because it sometimes appeared to me that the outside world was spiralling out of control and here I was focused on ‘first world problems’. In reality this guilt was helping nobody. I was only ever playing my part in pulling the wider world back from higher levels of empathy, compassion and understanding. In the same way that I can’t fight hate with hate, a feeling of guilt will only bring me and my wider community a stronger sense of guilt.
True empathy and compassion comes when I am willing to become a little less self concious and I listen to and become curious about the individual in front of me. The fact of the matter is that we each live in a seperate reality created of our own thinking, the only way for me to have a shot at understanding you is if I can listen as much as I can to you. In this way I might have a chance at comprehending the underlying logic behind your words. I might even begin to get a sense of how you perceive the world so that we both have a shot at seeing the world with fresh eyes.
The story I weave is so compelling and real to me that I often innocently get lost in it, but that’s OK, I am a human being after all. Sometimes I love this innate capacity of mine because I am capable of weaving a truly beautiful narrative from time to time that I immensely enjoy. In the blink of an eye this same power can become a curse, I feel down and it truly seems like it is coming from my environment and not the narrative I have created about the environment.
The power comes in those glimpses where I see that I am the narrator of the story and not the story itself. This has the power to change the course of my life. I begin to see that my limitations come from my story, I then begin to see that my possibilites also come from my story. With this simple truth comes a powerful question;
do I choose to engage in a story of limitation or a story of possibility?
I used to think that some people really need to be fixed or some people are truly ‘lost causes’ that cannot be reformed. The truth of the matter is that we are all human and we all have the capacity within us for all the acts that humanity carries out. Who am I to judge someone or feel like I can fix somebody else? When I look at what I can control in life it is only really the decisions and choices that I make and I overlook this at my peril.
Choices and decisions lead to actions and behaviours, actions and behaviours lead to a way of living and existing, a way of living and existing has the power to influence other individuals, individuals have the power to influence communities and communities have the power to influence the world.
Originally published at thehappymindset.com