I have a confession to make. When I was still a young adult, my life was a dishonest one. Oh, I was taught that honesty in life is the best way to live. In real life, though, I found out that living honestly was mentally and physically dangerous. Nearly all the people who had discovered who I was, either shunned me or threatened physical violence.
Nearly every day the burden of concealing my true nature interfered with academic performance, personal interactions, caused chronic worry, and even affected physical health. I was envious of my peers who went about their day to day activities with their lives pretty much open books. Their maxim could have well been, “What you see is what you get.”
When people must hide who they are, their lives are a lie. The dishonesty taints nearly every aspect of living. Their dealings with everyone are fake. The accepted name for this type of dishonesty is called “the closet”, which is a weak metaphor for the actual experience.
The normal façade everyone uses when dealing with strangers grows into a thick wall to block the truth from friends and family. My self-constructed wall felt every bit as oppressive as the Berlin Wall. It seemed as solid as concrete and was reinforced with spiteful public opinion. That opinion was validated by religion, so it was constructed right into the core. The wall kept me away from freedom and authentic joy.
I craved the happy-go-lucky way of life of people I admired and loved. More accurately, I desperately hungered for the right to live my life honestly. I didn’t know that people could gather their strength and tear down the wall. An increasingly more curious voice inside kept asking, “What would it be like to live life honestly?”
In 1973, the closet meme had not yet gained wide-spread popularity, so that was not the year I came out of a closet. 1973 was the year I took up the psychic sledgehammer and began crushing the blocks of my personal Berlin Wall. Every time I told a friend or family member who I really am, another block in the wall was no more. The land of honesty and freedom became visible.
I’d like to say that once my Berlin Wall was demolished; that life unfolded like a fairytale. Well, life did get very much better. An inborn trait of happiness revealed itself. There was indeed a great sense of liberation. However, I was still covered with the dust from the wall’s demolition. The habit of dishonesty still obscured some of life.
At times, it felt necessary to rebuild part of the wall. I had to pretend to be someone else when applying for a job, and hunting for a new apartment. I took refuge behind the wall when meeting new acquaintances. The claustrophobia returned when the wall came up around me once more. Again, I was not living honestly. At that realization, I decided to tear down the wall permanently.
Tearing down the wall and living honestly is not a one-time event. It’s a process. Friends have told me that they too have walls and closets of different types. Breaking down the wall or coming out of the closet isn’t just reserved for LGBT people. To some degree, everyone can benefit from living honestly.
When we stop lying to ourselves, we can choose to stop lying to others. When this process begins, we can feel freedom and joy. Our relationships with ourselves are improved along with our interpersonal relationships.
A person can experiment with all the latest self-help techniques on Earth, but none will be successful without the act of living honestly. In fact, the intention to live honestly may well cause a person to become more accepting of oneself and others.
At the very least we can take comfort from this saying from Thomas Carlyle: “Make yourself an honest man, and you can be sure there is one less rascal in the world.”
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders this quote from writer Christopher Phillips: “I would replace the quality of sincerity with honesty, since one can hold a conviction sincerely without examining it, while honesty would require that one subject one’s convictions to frequent scrutiny.”