The Truth MAY Set Me Free. Or It Might Just Make People Hate My Guts.

Posted by on April 9, 2010

Can you even imagine being 100% honest ALL THE TIME?

It’s been reported that 93% of Americans surveyed admit to lying on a regular basis.

And yes, I lie, too.

I lie about why I’m late picking my kids up from school; or why I haven’t returned phone calls from someone I really don’t want to talk to; or what I think of a friend’s unflattering new haircut; or why I’ve not gotten my cat’s shots updated in two years—I’VE BEEN REALLY SELF-ABSORBED BUSY, DAMMIT!

DON’T JUDGE (you know you do it, too)

Now picture yourself NEVER telling any lies at all—no white lies; no half truths; no sparing someone’s feelings; no little fibs to make yourself look better—or less bad.

This is the premise behind Radical Honesty. No lies. Ever.

Most of the time, we don’t lie to deceive others so much as we do it out of fear that we will lose something…be it love or respect or status or control or any number of other things we simply DON’T want to lose.

Of course, sometimes we DO lie specifically to deceive but it still, oftentimes, comes back to preserving or stopping the loss something important to us.

So. Could you stop lying, say, right now?

Every time I think about pursuing a life of Radical Honesty, I respond like a junkie—it’s going to be hard. And unpleasant. I’ll quit tomorrow.

I know for me, one of the hardest things about Radical Honesty would involve being honest about letting people know how I feel about something they have done or said that has upset me, or offended me or just plain pissed me off.

Women are socialized to be nice, to not rock the boat too much and to generally strive for harmony; being liked by others is most important.

Those things do not mesh well with being radically honest and thus, women tend to not let others know what they’re really thinking or feeling.

Instead we act angry or behave passive-aggressively but when the person with whom we are upset asks us if there is a problem and we often respond with faux innocence and perhaps a little shock.

“What? Nooooo! I’m not mad at you” except they really are and frequently, everyone else knows why EXCEPT  the person they are upset with.

This is a generalization and of course, every situation will vary to a certain degree but this is classic female social behavior. Instead of confronting the source of our ire, we claim everything is fine while we seethe, brew and talk about the situation with everyone BUT that person.

Why? Because we are not raised to be honest. We’re raised to be nice. We’re not comfortable saying “Hey, I resent that” or “I think you’re wrong” or “You hurt my feelings” or any other expression that isn’t “nice” because being “not nice” = being potentially “not liked”.

I know there times, nearly every day of my life, that I’d like to call someone on something that they’ve done or said but I don’t. I don’t want to provoke anyone. I don’t want them to do what I would fully expect them to do which is listen to what I have to say and then go and tell everyone I’m a bitch and organize some kind of ridiculous campaign against me because I’ve broken the cardinal rule of being female and was honest instead of nice. It happened in 7th grade when I was honest about something and insofar as I can tell, things haven’t changed much. We women still act a lot like 7th graders.

But ohhh if we COULD be honest without fear of loss or retribution… Imagine how freeing it would be to say what you feel and mean what you say. Yes, people’s feelings will sometimes be hurt. And sometimes people will be shocked or angry but honestly, I think I’d rather deal with the truth and all that comes with it, then deal with the landmines and bullshit that come with untruths any day. Can someone REALLY fault someone else for being truthful?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say men are more honest than women but I do think men are much more free to be honest with each other and if bad feelings result, it’s usually resolved quickly and they move on.

Does this mean men never lie? No, of course not. *coughtigerwoodscough* *coughgeorgewbushcough* But they’re not socialized to choose harmony over honesty and I do envy that.

So…I’m still pondering Radical Honesty as a way of life—but something tells me I would have to preface EVERY conversation with a reminder that I’m no longer pulling any punches because the idea of hurting someone’s feelings is extremely disturbing to me and I would want them to understand before I say anything that it’s not my intention, but rather a potential side effect of the NEW! ME!

What do you think? Is Radical Honesty something you would every consider?

Anyone up for a Radical Honesty challenge?

This article was the inspiration for this post and I’m considering buying this book. Or at least checking it  out from the library. And in the interest of honesty, that’s an Amazon affiliate link.

NOTE: I will NOT be attending any Radical Honesty seminars or what have you, because, honestly, I hate stuff like that.


  • angelynn says:

    Complete honesty would be nice, but it would only work if everyone did it. Maybe if it started with one person it would gradually spread. It would be freeing. I think it would help if I could stop lying to myself. I seem to be pretty good at that. You’re right about being raised to be nice. It’s helpful and time-saving, but gets me in trouble. It would be an interesting experiment to go a day or week without lying. I’d love to hear about it if you do. Honestly. :)
    .-= angelynn’s last blog post…Fear =-.

    • IzzyMom says:

      It would def work better if more people did it. I rather like people that tend to be very blunt and forthright. It’s refreshing to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

  • Maybe I missed some big announcement, but I have to ask the most obvious question: what if someone in your town asks if you blog? Will the Radically Honest Izzy hand out business cards? : )

    Just kidding! I understand the spirit of the challenge has more to do with being real with your feelings. I really could use a self-help course in this. I stew in my feelings and swallow them down until they “go away” and I feel better. Super healthy, right? But, face them? Ack!!!!!!
    .-= Fairly Odd Mother’s last blog post…The scream =-.

    • IzzyMom says:

      Hmmm…I think I would have to decline to answer. Or just run. File that one under things I do NOT want to deal with ever.

      I think a lot of women do the same thing (you can see them on “Snapped” :P)

  • SciFi Dad says:

    I would say that I’m more honest than the average, which is why I have the reputation in my business as being a bit “odd” or (more commonly) an asshole.

    Case in point: once I was in a meeting with this other company who was trying to work with one of my clients. They pitched it to me as an opportunity for a joint venture. When they were done, they asked me what they could do to help the process at that time, and I responded, “Nothing for now; I’m good.” They insisted, I politely declined, and finally said, “Listen, right now *I* need to take care of shit. You will screw it up. Just stay out of my way.”
    .-= SciFi Dad’s last blog post…Music? Only Technically. =-.

  • Emmy says:

    I tend to tell people what I think or feel. But sometimes I omit from commenting when it’s better not saying anything at all.

  • Jessica says:

    I never lie. I honest 100% of the time…wait, thats a lie!

  • You have got to listen to the Moth’s podcast about Radical Honesty by Starlee Kine (if you listen to this American Life you’ve heard her, she’s awesome). Not that honesty isn’t often the best policy, but this sounds like a bit of a strange cult…

    PSA – subscribe to the Moth podcast regardless, it’s just awesome (I get no financial benefits from this PSA :)
    .-= Nicole Pelton’s last blog post…Let’s do some Science for a Virtual Science Fair =-.

  • IzzyMom says:

    I’ve actually listened to a bit of that podcast. It comes up high in the Google search results and yes, it makes RH sound a bit cultish. Luckily, I hate group things, I’m a terrible “joiner” and I have issues with authority so I’m definitely not cult member material. In spite of that, I do still think that there is something to be gained from pursuing radical honesty. Of course, I’m not sure what exactly since I’ve been too wimpy to try it thus far…
    .-= IzzyMom’s last blog post…The Truth MAY Set Me Free. Or It Might Just Make People Hate My Guts. =-.

  • muskrat says:

    Lying is too much fun to quit.
    .-= muskrat’s last blog post…12 months later =-.

  • Boston Mamas says:

    Very interesting…I don’t feel as if I’ve been on an honesty crusade or anything but as the years have passed I think my filter has degraded, as well as my patience for feeling as if I need to sugar coat things or make excuses for why I couldn’t do something. I’m now super direct and honest about things — I sort of figure, OK, they can either take it and appreciate that I am expressing my feelings in their best interest, or they can look for affirmation elsewhere.

    As for ceasing lying via excuses, this has been extremely liberating! I think it’s perfectly fine to just say “No, I can’t make it” or “Sorry I was late” without adding to it. -Christine
    .-= Boston Mamas’s last blog post…Craftastic CRAFTBOSTON =-.

  • patois says:

    So long as omissions are not considered lies, I think I could do it. For a few days. And I would need a card or something to give people who ask questions that truthful answers will upset. A card like, “Do you REALLY want me to answer that?”
    .-= patois’s last blog post…The Weekly Wonderings #148 =-.

  • Jack says:

    Radical honesty would cause more fights than it solves. There is a balance that needs to be walked. Sometimes the better choice is to tell the white lie. There is no need to get involved in more conflicts.
    .-= Jack’s last blog post…Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #6 =-.

    • IzzyMom says:

      I think the little white lie told to spare someone’s feelings is the one I would have the most trouble with… But otherwise, I do appreciate honesty and even bluntness if it’s clearly not intended to be hurtful. It’s nice to know what people are really thinking and knowing that what you see (and hear) is what you get.
      .-= IzzyMom’s last blog post…The Truth MAY Set Me Free. Or It Might Just Make People Hate My Guts. =-.

      • Jack says:

        It depends on who you are dealing with. I have friends and family that I can be brutally honest with without fear of starting war.

        But some people just go apeshit over any perceived slight, intentional or otherwise. I don’t have time to deal with all of it so sometimes I just keep my mouth shut.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like having a clear understanding about where I stand and what is going on. But I don’t like being interrogated for hours because someone can’t deal with an honest opinion.

        FWIW, I am not the guy to ask about clothing. If you want to know if the jeans make your butt look big I will tell you what I think. That is one area that I just don’t mince words.
        .-= Jack’s last blog post…Buck =-.

  • Nicole says:

    I don’t find I really have to lie that much, and I don’t have a problem with little white lies (traffic was bad vs I totally spaced while I was reading blogs). My husband got in way too much trouble for his honesty in the corporate world, which did not believe in ever being honest, but erred on the side of feelings over scientific truths, go figure. Lately “radical honesty” at my company seems to have resulted in totally innappropriate leaks to magazines, although I know that’s not what you mean.
    .-= Nicole’s last blog post…Let’s do some Science for a Virtual Science Fair =-.

  • avasmommy says:

    If the only purpose served in telling the truth is to hurt someone’s feelings, count me out. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing or tell that little white lie.
    .-= avasmommy’s last blog post…I Left High School But It Never Left Me =-.

  • kuba says:

    although I’m a guy, I’d like to think I was raised to be nice too!!!…. my parents were probably the 2 nicest people I’ve ever known, I’m just trying to measure up…. but back to the topic at hand…. I think there are different degrees of lying…. if telling the “truth” will pointlessly hurt someone’s feelings, I’m not gonna do it…. but then, what is the “truth” anyway??… I think that many times there’s a fine line between the “truth” and “opinion”…. say you don’t like someone’s haircut…. just because *you* don’t like it doesn’t make it a bad haircut, so telling them that it looks bad is not necessarily the “truth”, but maybe just your opinion….
    .-= kuba’s last blog post…Ken and Sara tie the knot!! =-.

    • IzzyMom says:

      Oh, I know boys aren’t raised to be mean, per se. It’s just that it’s not really socially acceptable for women to be anything BUT nice. You’s the old “if a man is tough or assertive or honest, it’s admirable but a woman behaving the same way is just a bitch” thing. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture. I think the truth vs opinion thing is that yes, it’s your opinion but it’s your HONEST opinion, rather than the absolute truth.

  • Great post. The interesting thing is how pissed people get when you do tell the truth, even if you say it carefully or kindly. Most people want to think we’re being honest with each other, because it’s easier, more convenient, less involved, but they don’t really want honesty. We’re not really raised, as a whole, to deal with honesty. Isn’t that just supremely fucked up?
    .-= Mary Poppins in Heels’s last blog post…Happy Birthday to Naomi….with Gingerbread Cookies =-.

    • IzzyMom says:

      You’re absolutely right… People really don’t want to hear the truth most of the time and they DO get pissed, even though they should be glad someone is being honest with them for a change.

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