Thursday, July 05, 2007

On Honesty

I want you to know that it is not difficult for me to be honest.

So those of you who think that I'm some kind of incredibly brave or courageous person, although you're being very sweet, are mistaken.

Honesty is not difficult for me because there is nothing I have written that I need to hide. I do not find it difficult to express my emotions; neither do I find it difficult to tell the truth. This is possibly because this truth does not, as far as I am concerned, shame me. What could you do to me with what I tell you? Could you blackmail me? I think not. Therefore there is no bravery required.

The reason I am honest and tell the truth is because I believe that many people stand to benefit from this. We are generally not honest when we speak to one another face to face because we are worried about how we will be judged. We wear masks. We act polite. Not all of us; some are truly genuine, but many of us.

I think it is necessary to understand that there is so much that we beat ourselves up about that so many others have shared or done, so many flaws we have that others have in common, that we share the same weaknesses and potential for greatness.

So maybe you don't believe in God. Well, maybe I don't pray. Maybe you hate him. Maybe I do, too, at times. Maybe you're not the person your parents think you are. Maybe nobody is. We could go on to list the many "maybes," all the many problems, flaws and doubts that greet us in the night.

Maybe you're the only one who realizes how flawed you are and you feel sick accepting other people's praise because you don't deserve it, but you can't protest.

I think that's the way most of us feel. We all feel that we have something that is too big to share, some flaw where if anyone saw it, they wouldn't like us anymore. So we hide it.

But I wrote once, and this is what I've always believed, that we're all hiding the same monsters, and if we shine some light on them we will see the similarities. You see, "when people let their monsters out for a little onstage interview, it turns out that we've all done or thought the same things, that this is our lot, our condition. We don't end up with a brand on our forehead. Instead, we compare notes."

Maybe you've secretly fantasized about something forbidden.

Maybe you're not who you seem. Maybe you're pretending. And maybe you're sick of it.

Oh, welcome to my life. Welcome to everyone's lives, while we're at it.

We've all done this; we're just not all able to admit it.

The reason I feel I can admit this is because I think it's normal. And I've decided it doesn't make me bad, or flawed or somehow ought to instill some sense of unreasonable guilt. Something is a normal feeling or emotion- let's put it out there, discuss it, deal with it. Let's not just avoid it. Avoiding only leads to more time to turn this idea over in one's head and concentrate on how bad one is.

There's a wonderful quote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower where Charlie writes, "I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist."

Each person has their own solitary pain or problem that can only be borne by themselves.

But sometimes it is enough to know that someone else has shared that pain and can therefore understand it.

That someone is willing to listen.

And someone understands.

So I'm honest. That's true.

But please don't praise me for it.

It's just that, when it comes to this, I don't know how to lie. And that is a selfish action.

Because I also want to know that there's someone out there who understands. Someone willing to listen. Someone who will accept me for who I am rather than what I seem.

I want that more than anything.

We all do.


rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Wow. Well put. The world would be a better place if we were all more honest. I appreciate very much what you write.

Shoshana said...

It's hard to realize that we are all in the same boat. We all think that no one has the same failings and falterings that we do. But I've found in the past, when you finally open up and share those parts of you that you don't think someone will understand, they usually do.

Anonymous said...

If that is the case, then why won't you do what most authors in print and many online do:
1. Post a picture of yourself.
2. Identify yourself.

Since, as you say, there is no shame.

Chana said...

For the very simple reason that some of you are rather interesting people who I would rather didn't show up at my house in the middle of the night.

I have posted enough information on this blog to be easily identifiable by anyone who lives in Chicago or who attends Stern/ YU. I am not trying to hide from people.

That being said, I don't quite think you are entitled to my address.

Scraps said...

Unfortunately, honesty is often hard to come by in today's day and age. Perhaps that is why people perceive you as courageous.

It's true...when we all take off our masks, we're so much more alike underneath than we think. But because we're each convinced that "I'm the only one in the world with this particular problem/difficulty/etc," we think we'd better keep quiet and pretend to be "normal" or else people will abandon us, revile us, turn away in fear or disgust. But when we move the masks a little, showing more of our true selves, we build deeper connections, because we find that we're not so frighteningly abnormal after all.

Sarabeth said...

For people like you, who know they've done the right thing and have nothing to hide, it's easier to be honest. But for the other rebels that came out of Templars scarred and cowed, being honest is almost impossible.

Rebecca said...

This is a great post, Chana. Kol HaKavod to you!

But there's a problem with living in that ideal world. That problem is that people are not necessarily as accepting as you are. My dear Chana, you are one of the most accepting people I know. But not everyone is blessed with this gift. Not everyone is secure enough with how they feel themselves--no matter how many other people feel that way. Yes, camaradie (is that the right word?) is wonderful and honestly does make the world a better place. But we must be at peace with ourselves first in order to accept others. I hope we can all eventually reach this level. And like I said, I really do like this post :-).

Chana said...


That's the highest compliment you could give me.

But since I know someone so much more accepting than me, I'm going to pass it on to him.

Thank you. And I'll try to be worthy of the way you see me.

yitz said...

unfortunately women have many good reasons to hide their identity.

look how considerate Chana was though, she let you hide your identity (and still comment on her blog) as well :)

The second lubavitcher rebbe said that two people working together can more easily overcome their yetzer hara, because the yetzer hara has no interest in corrupting others whereas the yetzer tov has an interest in encouraging good in others, so it becomes two yetzer tovs against one yetzer hara.

and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said that telling a close confidant what it is the yetzer hara wants you to do actually weakens it, because the yetzer tries to get you to feel ashamed of what you are thinking and hide it from others, which only gives it more strength.

So hazak u'baruch. Honesty and openness will b'ezrat HaShem bring about many changes for the good :)

On the converse side of course there are good reasons to hide certain things, it creates intimacy, something special and sacred. Otherwise, HaShem wouldn't have taken Bnei Yisrael as a separate nation for himself, wouldn't have given us the Torah exclusively, if there wasn't anything to be added/gained by it.