Conventional Wisdom 2: Honesty is the best policy

Who would willingly describe themselves as dishonest? Well, maybe I should. I don't mean that I lie a lot; sure, I lie, but not very often. But I think honesty is more than not lying, I think it's representing the truth as best you can; not just avoiding direct responsibility for untruth, but actively striving to increase the truth in the universe. By not lying, yes, but also by pushing back against falsehoods and misunderstandings, and by making an effort to speak the truth when you could say nothing.

In that sense, then, the opposite of honesty isn't deceit, but cowardice. It's when you have something to say but don't say it because of fear of the repercussions, or when you see something wrong but don't correct it, or avoid revealing the truth because you're afraid of what it might mean. Lying is a way of trying to control reality by controlling what people think, and this broader dishonesty is no different. If you hold back who you are so that people will like you, you turn your friends into rubes, and your relationships into performances.

It's this kind of broad dishonesty that I feel I am sometimes a perpetrator of, and what I want to push back against this month. It's not so much that I actively try to deceive as that I don't go out of my way to inform. I'm happy to leave things unsaid and remain snuggled safe in the bosom of the status quo. Why rock the boat? But, ideologically, that behaviour doesn't agree with me at all. I'm a global optimiser at heart. Really, it's cowardice. I don't say that with any real sense of self-loathing, it's just a fact; when I don't speak up, it's because I'm afraid of the consequences.

So for this month, I'm taking a few different steps to commit myself to honesty as the best policy. I'm getting more active on Twitter, which I normally use really just to repost stuff from here. I intend to use it more like a journal, write random thoughts there and be generally more open about what's going on in my day. I'm pinned halfway between thinking it will be difficult because nobody will care and thinking it will be difficult because people will care, so it should be fun to find out.

The second thing is I'm going to write a bit differently on this site. I generally try to avoid being too personal and bloggy here, not out of any particular desire to hide, but mostly because I think ideas and generalities are more interesting than what I had for breakfast or whatever. The point is the work, not me. Still, I think there's value in putting the process back into the work, so I'm going to write more personally and see how that feels. I'm going to make an effort to write about any topcs I've been avoiding, and I'm also going to add some "here's who I am" type material to the site, which I've been putting off for ages.

Lastly, and perhaps most dauntingly, I'm going to try to bring this honesty to my personal life. That means describing this experiment to people I'm talking to, making an effort to be honest with them, to speak up if they say something I don't agree with, to avoid censoring myself if there's something I think about saying, and to provide them with the opportunity to be honest back if they want. These type of interactions are more scary, both because real life seems more real than the internet, and also because the potential for consequences is greater.

Still, despite the possible consequences, I do feel that there is something inherently righteous in taking the risk. If I suffer consequences for my honesty, then those consequences were always there waiting for me, I was just hiding from them. Better to face them head-on with courage than hope they never find me; that's no way to live.

I guess we'll see if I still feel that way in a month.