Monday, May 20, 2019

Whole and Nothing But?

(An insistence on) Absolute honesty can be burdensome and hurtful.

Immediately, you may remember being the recipient of cruel or condemnatory honesty. You may, in turn, have opted not to hurt someone with such honesty. In this post, I am more interested in the other side of the coin: in those times where honesty is demanded by a listener who makes a speaker vulnerable.

People have a right to privacy: to protect their inmost selves from scrutiny. Scrutiny is not neutral: it belongs to a viewer, who by definition interprets. Can you trust the way they will 'interpret', or judge, you? How do you know? If you're unsure, you are wise to hold back.

'Honesty' is often demanded by a person in power. A child gets in serious trouble when his parent / teacher / priest finds out he 'lied'. He can in no way command the same level of accountability from them. There is no equality. We would hope that the parent / teacher / priest were benevolent - but .........

Thirdly....the pursuit of honesty takes place in biased, sometimes hostile, contexts. CCTV cameras everywhere might seem ok to those of us who have 'done nothing wrong'. AKA are 'in the dominant group'. Imagine yourself a Muslim in Trump's America, and new camera installations seem far less objective.

Closer to home, an insistence on more honesty can be a sign that something is wrong in a relationship. Can reveal a current of hatred, objectification or need for control.

Freedom to be honest about our deepest thoughts and feelings can aid well-being. The confessional, for all its pitfalls, recognises this. As does its modern-day equivalent (and its pitfalls): therapy. The aim in these contexts is for honesty to be made safe. (Suggesting that it is not always so.)

Honesty can enable listeners to pin onto you their unrecognised issues and responsiblities; to make of you a scapegoat.

When arrested by the religious authorities, Jesus infuriated them by keeping silence. When quizzed by Pilate, he refused to give straight answers. His refusal to be honest did not make him safe but it gave his death great weight. In refusing to be 'honest', Jesus refused to take responsibility for others' interpretations of his words and actions. They had to own it. And, thus, were shown the deeply uncomfortable way towards discovering the truth about themselves.