Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The price of true honesty.

I don't lie. 

Not to make things easier, not to protect myself, not ever. I mean, I played along with the Santa Claus experience when my kids were little, but very little else knowingly false escapes my lips. I can lie, I just choose not to. I've not yet figured out why I go to such efforts, but I do know that it's just easier to tell the truth. I try to do well in life as well as do good. I try not to sin by silence while also trying to be tactful in my advice. I try to do all this humbly. Honesty isn't always easy. It has cost me many friends.

Often when I get to know someone, or rather they get to know me, there comes a period where my acquaintance ends up feeling judged. But I'm not judging them by living my life a certain way, I think they just become disappointed in themselves. This occasionally can be expressed as anger, with the acquaintance lashing out hurt, ultimately they feel that I am arrogant, elitist or an ego-maniac. They argue that I think I'm better than them, ironically, because I'm being what they consider better than them. Usually this behaviour is limited to folks of limited intelligence and/or experience. These are things everyone can do something about. Not everyone will. However there is one outcome of getting to know me that seems to be universal amongst everyone, even very close friends. 

They stop telling me things. 

I think because again, they feel judged and don't want to be. "I drove home drunk on the weekend. Was lucky to have made it," admits my silly friend. "I guess so was everyone else on the roads or sidewalks," I offer. Now my friend feels ashamed rather than proud. "I cheat on my wife, I get away with it all the time," admits my promiscuous acquaintance. "Hey, I'm a man!" he offers as if this is a natural thing for men to do, as opposed to women. So I ask, "How would you feel if you found out it was true that I was fucking your wife?" Now my acquaintance feels like the person being cheated upon. I'm travelling with a co-worker who is driving. A woman cuts him off so he follows much too closely and aggressively, I presume to extract some form of revenge by scaring her. "Maybe next time she won't cut somebody off," he says. "Maybe," I say, "but her bad driving could have been unintentional and your bad driving is intentional. Besides, we're one car length further back than we would have been if she hadn't cut you off. It really makes no difference to anyone but you. Why get upset and go to all this trouble?" In all of these instances, I am not judging the individuals, I'm just pointing out facts in the real world that make them feel judged. They are, in fact, judging themselves.
They, like many, are living a lie. I'm only trying to help them discover their authenticity and perhaps develop some empathy. Getting drunk, making poor decisions, cheating on your wife and getting angry in traffic are all things that happen. It would be silly to think we could eradicate these things, but we damn well better be honest with ourselves about them. 

Such is it that, given enough time, those who know me discover their authentic selves whether they wish to or not. This is the price of penultimate honesty. Their only recourse is to stop expressing their inauthenticities. Which they do, readily. I believe the most obvious reason for doing so is to not have to address the fact that aspects of their personalities need work. And here again, I sound like a pompous asshole, but I'm beyond caring if you can't see what is simply true. Expressed as a syllogism it might sound like this: I know people who make their lives difficult by being inauthentic. I know people who make their lives easier by being authentic. Easier is better than more difficult. If the preceding three sentences are true, do you now feel better about the word "better?" If there couldn't be a better life, how do we have something to strive for? Also, if there is a better life, then it must also be true that there are people living a better life. If authenticity leads to that better life and I am my most authentic self, then I must be living a better life. Don't think I'm better than you, I don't. Think I'm living better than you because I'm living more authentically. I'm not an asshole, I just always tell the truth. It just so happens that you're full of shit and I've got a shovel. I'm here to help, I've rolled up my sleeves. Don't hate me for it.

The Authentic Self, which nerds have been talking about since philosophy was invented, is achievable to varying degrees. Nerds, by the way, in my estimation are folks who have an appreciation for intelligence and understanding. Nerds are one social group that I feel have the healthiest approach to living, simply because of their authenticity. I might even say there is a moral superiority to nerd culture that is attached to intellectualism and such things are healthy. Spokesnerds John and Hank Green attribute this to thinking complexly and they are right, empathy requires complex thoughts, but I'm digressing to the point of requiring a new essay. (What else is new?) The point is, authenticity has been a concern for thousands of years, there is no easy path to it, but every path to it comes to a vast ocean of personal responsibility. We must do the work necessary to be authentic and there's a reason it's called work. It's so much easier to be inauthentic. 
Whenever I tell people that I don't lie, I'm sure they think, although they rarely express it, "Well, I don't lie either." But that's a lie. You lie all the time, ten times before lunch on a quiet day. If you truly never lied in the same way that I never lie, you would know how very difficult it is.

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