Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ruthless Honesty For The Self

Everyone, we are told, wants honesty.  But in truth, everyone does not want ruthless honesty.  We all decry lies - even little white ones - but somehow are offended when some gives us the unvarnished truth.  We do not want to hear we are overweight,  slothful, greedy, proud, uncaring or any of the other deadly sins.  If confronted with such, we wither and immediately cast aspersions upon the other - or we, when giving the input, are somehow surprised when people ask us for "honest" feedback, and then reject it (and call us insensitive along the way).

But there is one person we should - indeed must - be ruthlessly honest with: ourselves.

I am never - not once - improved by lying to myself or pretending that things are other than they are.  I can pretend that I am not being slothful or diligent enough and making excuses for bowing to my foibles (or sins, as I should probably name them) but that does not change the nature of the fact that I am slothful or lazy or just plain sinning.  I hide my failures by turning my eyes and my words at the critical moment, turning to the right or to the left and avoiding the very thing that I probably need to be saying to myself.

Honesty works both ways, of course.  I am equally bad at taking credit when I do well - somehow achieving a result I have striven seems to feel to me too much like pride and not enough like the just rewards for effort well expended.  Do that to yourself long enough and you will kill your motivation to do anything at all.

"Anciently", said Sun Tzu, "the skillful warriors made themselves invulnerable and then awaited the enemy's moment of vulnerability."  To become invulnerable in war means to honestly assess one's weaknesses and shore them up and to honestly assess one's strengths and how they may best be used.  I would submit that those who are truly great (as opposed to those who are just "famous") all bear within them a ruthless streak of honesty.  They know themselves well and thus, know the best ways that they will succeed, the best ways they can fail, and the insidious excuses they make to release themselves from effort and encourage themselves to vice. 

Perhaps we cannot be honest with all because not all react well.  But we should at least have the ability to be able to clearly see and comment on ourselves - and the strength the accept that honesty.

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