I could say that I decided to write this post as a reaction to recent tweets made by Rihanna to Chris Brown. She tweets telling the man who brutally beat her, “Praying for you baby, my best wishes are with u today,” as he stepped into a court room. But the only reason I really included this at all was to boost SEO. I thought about writing this post as an open letter to every human who has ever had their heart shit on. And then I thought about writing this post as an open letter to all those humans doing the shitting. And then I figured I could just get that sentiment out in those two lines and move on from there. The truth is I want to talk about honesty. And it’s all related, I promise.
I’ll begin this story back when I was a little girl. I grew up on a ranch in The Middle of Nowhere, Texas and was about as tame as the quarter horses my father took to the race track. Not unlike other girls who grew up on ranches, I was reckless, in no way lady-like and always bruised and dirty. My aunts and uncles would always joke that they felt for the man who was brave enough to walk me down the aisle one day. I couldn’t have cared less about boys at the time, but I always listened to my dad chuckle and say, “As long as he’s an honest man.” Come on, Dad. What about tall, dark and handsome? You just want my future prince charming to tell the truth all the time? He’d look at me like the silly child I was and say, “There’s much more to honesty than that,” followed by the dreaded, “You’ll understand one day.”
The next time I stumbled over the idea of truth and honesty, I was a sophomore in high school. Mrs. Dekunder (whom I hated at the time for being smarter than me) read us a line from Keats. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” A thought bubble emerged above my head, “Hey Mrs. Dekunder, here is a truth that isn’t pretty–I’m to blame for all the slime you’re going to discover inside your desk as soon as 6th period is over.” The bubble dissolved as our class full of 15 year olds who had it all figured out erupted in objection. “But Mrs. Dekunder, that’s ridiculous. There’s nothing beautiful about calling a fat person fat.” “Yeah, and what about the idea that ignorance is bliss?” Her eyes seemed to laugh at us when she calmly responded, “Keats doesn’t comment on whether or not truth causes pain or anything else for that matter. He also never said beauty modefies truth. He said beauty IS truth. Truth is beauty. They are the same. You’ll have to abandon your current idea of beauty to really understand what he means.”
So where am I going with all of this? I want to talk about honesty in the context of a relationship. I want to talk about what it means to be true both to yourself and to someone else. About what my father must have meant when he said ‘honest.’
Honesty in a relationship starts with getting to know yourself and what you want. You have to make a real assessment of your needs, desires and standards for yourself and significant other. And then you have to be honest with your significant other about all of those things. You have to listen to their needs, wants and standards, and you have to make a reasonable decision about whether or not those two things are compatible. Unfortunately that kind of honesty requires absolute vulnerability. It forces you to expose the truth to one another and make a conscious decision to do the right thing with that information. This doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons. The most prominent (in my opinion) being that people are rarely willing to be that vulnerable. Insecurity, fear of rejection, fear of hurting someone’s feelings– all these things hinder people from being totally forthright. So people dance around being completely honest and attempt to figure out what the other person wants by judging their reactions. “She got jealous when I mentioned that other girl. She likes me.” “He keeps mentioning other girls. He clearly wants to keep things casual.” Do we see how this dance can be dangerous?
Relationships, especially at the beginning, are riddled with missed and misinterpreted signals that often cause hurt feelings. While in a perfect world everyone would be upfront from the beginning, that just isn’t reasonable. Especially because it assumes that we must immediately figure out what we want with someone and instantly set that up as the standard. It doesn’t lend any room for the evolution of a relationship or feelings. So if you aren’t completely honest right from the start, I don’t blame you, and I won’t hold it against you. However, there comes a point in a relationship when it becomes more clear what each person wants. And this is where the being fair part of honesty comes in.
The moment you realize what you want from someone, you owe it to yourself and that person to make it known. And the moment you realize what they want, even if they do not articulate it directly, you owe it to them to be fair to and cognizant of that. The moment you know a truth, an honest individual becomes responsible for that truth.
Where does the beauty fit in? The beauty of being honest in this situation means never living with regret. Never wondering what would have or could have been. You can walk away with your hands clean, knowing that you were true to yourself and what you wanted. Sure, rejection sucks. No one is immune to that kind of pain. But regret is so much worse. It’s a knot in your stomach that tends to linger. Trust me.
Being honest also means you can walk away from something without taking advantage of or hurting another person. Maybe you’re the one doing the rejecting, but an honest rejection is always less painful than a betrayal. Disappointing them in the short term means that you don’t taint their memory of you in the long term. You’d be surprised how many beautiful friendships emerge from an honest rejection. One of the greatest friends I have is one who once rejected me romantically. He was honest and refused to take advantage of my feelings. He is one of the most beautiful people I know.
So to all of you cowardly and self-serving shitters: The next time you look me in the eyes and say you have always been honest, understand why I may no longer think you’re beautiful.
Oh, and what ever happened to the slime I put in Mrs. Dekunder’s desk? She came to class screaming the next day, and said that if no one confessed, she’d be adding an entire novel to our reading for the night complete with a quiz the next day. So I stood up and told her I did it. After a thorough and well deserved humiliation in front of everyone, she told me I had to stay after class. In the privacy of the abandoned room, she said she admired my honesty and promised that I would get her finest letter of recommendation when it came time for college applications. There are few people I respect more in the world. Keats, you win again ol’ boy.