Honesty: The Best Policy (…for the Bullshitter)

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul.”

Carl Jung (1875-1961)

In this modernistic/post-modern world, everyone wants The Truth. We want facts told to us straight. We want life, the world, the universe to be deconstructed and pinned to our walls for further analytical dissection. Given the choice to be happy or right, 9 times out of 10, we will choose to be right. We want out of the Matrix and into Zion – full autonomy, fuck The Man, We Are the 99%.

It’s all very cute, really.

And here we come to the Radical Honesty movement. According to radical honesty followers, it is never under any circumstances whatsoever from here to the edge of the Oort Cloud – never – okay to lie. Even that white lie you tell your mother about how fantastic her cooking is is detrimental in the long run. Or something like that.

radical honesty | The Big Blog of All the Shit I Know

At least they’re, well… honest.

All right, to be honest, this is an extremely poor representation of them and they’re idea isn’t all that terrible. I certainly think I lie more than is healthy (or am I just saying that?) The founder of the movement Brad Blanton is just as shady as you or me, he’s just more selective:

“‘I advocate never lying in personal relationships. But if you have Anne Frank in your attic and a Nazi knocks on the door, lie….I lie to any government official.’ (Blanton’s politics are just this side of Noam Chomsky’s.) ‘I lie to the IRS. I always take more deductions than are justified. I lie in golf. And in poker.'”

(Taken from an article in Esquire, which you should definitely read for shits, giggles, and some actually legit information.)

However, a problem with “radical honesty” is that the truth – or what we perceive as the truth – is burdensome. It is selfish to back up your dump truck and unload on everyone all the god damn time. Honesty is not a through and through virtue. It is a tool, just like the rest of human communication. It can be used to build or dismantle, and can just as easily be used to deceive. How much of advertising is built on “not technically lying?”

Blanton believes radical honesty makes for more intimate relationships. Perhaps so for a few people. But how realistic is it? The filters between the mind and the mouth were not developed as a detriment to our development as social organisms. In fact, the filters are essential in establishing social connection. Taking responsibility for what you say is what you do as a human being that gets along with other human beings. Saying something completely insulting, hurtful, or otherwise destructive and then passing it off as “it’s just radical honesty, get over it” is an example of not owning your own crap. It is placing the emotional responsibility on everyone else. If you were to take offense at what a radically honest person says, it’s your problem and that’s that.

Hiding behind honesty is no better than hiding behind lies.

Don’t lie to me now: When’s the last time you told a lie? A white lie? A big fat criminally implicating lie? (Shhh, your secret’s safe here). And what’s your take on Radical Honesty?

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17 thoughts on “Honesty: The Best Policy (…for the Bullshitter)

  1. I am sure everybody likes to lie in golf, poker and politics :D. But who’s truth we are talking about; mine or your? Truth is relative! I mean my truth might differ from your and there is nothing like universal truth. For a human being, conscience i.e. the sense of right and wrongdoing is always at place. I guess clarity of mind and soul can be a help. But thanks for sharing a thoughtful post, the world is uncertain nowadays and I am sure this can be a help 😉

    • “Truth is relative!” That is definitely the key there. And is truth really all that important? What ever works, works. That’s that. Whether it’s the “truth” or a “lie” or anything else we humans make up on the fly. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. The last time I told a lie…..I love your post.

    Na,really I´m glad you stopped by my crazy un paid blog. Radical honesty is not healthy if you ask me, plus I don´t think is built in human nature. Go figure if after half an hour of me waiting for my now ex girlfriend to get dressed to go out and she asking me “how do I look” I´d say “terrible, that dress is a joke” I had to run for the hills or have to paddle by way to the North Pole. They key is to keep a balance and be telling the truth and lying at the same time is healthy, that is what provides a balance. Or you can lie just by not saying things, or you can consider that not lying. You can lie to uplift others that are feeling down, obviously you can lie to manipulate, but in the long run people are not dumb and will see through you. Again not all that bad to manipulate, but for certain things and not let it become an addiction. Great post.

    Now you have a new stalker.

  3. Honesty is always the best bet. Incidentally, I am Elvis Presley.

    The last time I lied in my day-to-week life, was when… I can’t remember. They tend to be little fibs which don’t do any harm. Lying can be noble, of course. In the right situation. One would never pretend to be someone I’m not, for instance. I’d never stoop so low!

  4. Pingback: Radical Honesty and E-Prime | Johnny Lemuria

  5. I’m definitely not a pathological liar or anything (unlike my asshole little brother, who will lie at the slightest opportunity), but I can lie pretty flippantly. Or, more often, I’ll simply admit part of the truth. It’s just a general result of being a teenage girl, I think. I never lie in my blogging, since I have no reason to whatsoever, but in the real world I’m REALLY good at acting interested in what other people are talking about. So I wouldn’t say I straight up *lie* most of the time, but I’m a decent actress 😉

  6. Pingback: Can You Handle the Truth? | Out From Under the Umbrella

  7. I’m kinda on the fence with this one. When I ask my significant other a question I expect and honest answer. Not assholery, just an honest answer.

    But then again, I see John’s point. Sometimes even if we aren’t certain a person can hike Mount Everest we still need to behave as if we are.

    • A point about personal relationships: If a person will lie to you about a small matter, what else might they lie to you about? Sometimes the lies seem harmless but even little lies can erode trust.

      • I can definitely feel you there in regards to relationships. It almost always seems to hurt or be jarring to discover a lie no matter how small. But not all people are looking for honesty. “Does this make my butt look big” is a classic – cliched, but nonetheless real. Sometimes, we want to be lied to implicitly and that’s not always bad. Even lying takes trust.

        • Point taken. I know when The Brit tells me I have the body of an eighteen-year-old he’s not being exactly truthful…but it’s a nice lie. Lie to me gently.

  8. Fuck no… Society would collapse if we didn’t maintain the minimal and necessitated canvas of fibs. Big fibs like religion should be shot between the eyes, but even something as trivial as encouragement requires the encourager (is that a word?) to lie through his/her teeth.

    • Religion is a lie that has been misused for many terrible things, sadly, but I am not completely pessimistic about it. If only it could be relegated down to Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy level of lies, we’d all be a lot happier.

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