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Liar, liar, pants on fire

Friday, September 21, 2007  
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By Jill Ramsey

The voice of truth

I hate to admit it, but I lie. I have realized we are not as honest as we believe we are.

Did you just tell yourself that this does not apply to you?

That is called lying. Admit it, you lie too.

“Sorry I’m late, the traffic was unbelievable.”

“I’ll call you right back.”

“I don’t know…”

“I’m fine.”

“Well, I just wasn’t feeling well.”

There is a voice brewing inside most individuals waiting to be heard by the outside world. It is a voice that some of us do not hear anymore. It is the voice of truth. By us ignoring this voice we have built walls that keep people from truly knowing our core. This makes us unable to build solid relationships. 

The truth of radical honesty

I recently read an article about “Radical Honesty,” a book written by psychotherapist Dr. Brad Blanton. The book tells readers how to “Transform [their] lives by telling the truth.”

When I first glanced at the topic, I assumed I would qualify as a radically honest person.

Blanton describes radical honesty as “a kind of communication that is direct, complete, open and expressive. Radical honesty means you tell the people in your life what you’ve done or plan to do, what you think, and what you feel. It’s the kind of authentic sharing that creates the possibility of love and intimacy.”

It sounds easy enough, right? 

Radical honesty: the social experiment

I asked Ny Potter, junior, and Marshall Sayre, sophomore, to adopt Blanton’s theories of radical honesty in their own lives. I challenged myself to do the same.
Before honesty was our policy

Ny hates confrontations, and confesses to lying over the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings.  She typically keeps her feelings inside, hoping her relationships will remain stable.

Marshall uses sarcasm to mask his feelings.  People assume he is joking, and he doesn’t correct them.  Marshall lies to make people feel he is a nice person, or to get out of a commitment when he is overbooked.  He vents to third parties to calm his fears of confrontation.

I am a deceiver.  I exaggerate the truth to keep face.  My biggest fear is being wrong, so I manipulate words to create fabricated ‘white lies.’ I have an excuse ready for everything. Confrontations do not bother me, but I use half-true stories to try to relate to others.

Confessions of truth

Marshall met a girl he wanted to date, but she has a boyfriend. Instead of hesitating, he simply told her that she should break up with her boyfriend to date him. She told him there is a chance she could be convinced. 

He was able to talk to friends about bad relationships they were in, or how to improve their relationships.

Marshall’s friends responded well to his honesty and confided in him.

After being radically honest for 5 days, Marshall found that he did not stay up all night worrying about situations. He is gentle in his honesty, but has realized how freeing it feels to be radically honest.

I knew the first thing I had to give up was making excuses. I missed an 8 a.m. class and instead of dramatizing a bad headache, I e-mailed saying I turned off my alarm. I attached my assignment and asked him to grade it. He wrote back saying he completely understood and had no problem accepting it. I couldn’t believe it. 

I rear-ended a car this week, and when the police officer asked me what happened, I knew I could have tweaked the truth to get out of the ticket. I looked him in the aviators and told him I ‘looked down’ and was not watching when I accelerated. 

The guilt of making a mistake was relieved by taking ownership of it.

For 2 months I have kept inside my feelings for a guy I like. After awkwardly trying to put my words together, I said it. It felt so good to finally let out all the fears and insecurities that had been building inside of me.

He was surprised by my confession, but responded well to my honesty.  He opened up to me, and now our communication has depth.

Final Results

Blanton’s results matched mine. As Ny, Marshall, and I overcame the fears that caused us to lie, we gained relief. Our relationships were strengthened and deepened. 
In our culture of polite lies we have lowered our standard of intimacy. We think hiding behind our fears will allow us to maintain control and keep our insecurities in check. In turn, we are simply denying ourselves the opportunity to truly give and receive love.

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