To be honest, I can’t stand the phrase “to be honest”! Think about it. What typically follows that phrase? Usually, brutal honesty isn’t far behind, and often it’s hurtful. It gives honesty a bad rap. When I think about brutal honesty, I have to admit, I cringe. I’m the kind of person who likes people to get along, build one another up, smile at each other—you know, rainbows, unicorns, and smiley-face emojis!
But all that smiling can sometimes lead to a lonely place, can’t it? To be honest, we all need brutal honesty in our lives. Otherwise, we’re all just playing a game and putting on masks, aka being hypocritical in the way we portray ourselves. The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hupokrites, which means “act a theatrical part, play a part, pretend.” The ancient Greek actors wore masks, and that is exactly what we do when we don’t face the truth, and we try to pretend that everything is fine.
A co-worker of mine once said her pet peeve is when people ask, “How are you?” in passing, fully expecting the answer, “Fine, how are you?” I tend to agree! It’s become way too normal to ask and not really want honesty (even if it’s a little brutal some days) in response. I have heard it said that FINE stands for Feelings Inside Not Expressed. And feelings inside, kept inside, always find a way out.
To be honest, not that long ago, I was facing the biggest crisis of my life. I was not fine. Just one aspect of the crisis was the termination of my marriage to the father of my three children. My world was crumbling around me, but somehow, I still felt the need to appear okay, to keep it all together. The ironic thing is that I was surrounded by people who loved me and cared deeply about me, but I held back—paralyzed by the fear that if I shared what was happening in my personal life, it would somehow make me seem less valuable, less capable, just “less than.”
Hiding behind a smile worked for awhile, but slowly, inside, I was dying. I couldn’t eat or sleep consistently. Anxiety was my new norm. Chest pains and nausea haunted me day in and day out. I felt like I was dying, and to be honest, I probably was. It wasn’t until I finally gave up trying to play the part of “fine” that I began to find freedom and rest. The mask crumbled, and my crisis was exposed. Like a wound finding the healing power of oxygen, I was finally able to start rebuilding from the inside out.
That’s how brutal honesty saved my life. It wasn’t easy to open up, but that’s exactly what needed to happen. People started calling, texting, offering prayer. Realizing I didn’t need to have it all together was one path to my healing. I learned I needed to include the helping hands of the people God had already placed in my life. Their strength met my weakness and made me better. Their prayers, thoughtful words, and actions reached into my broken heart and helped it mend, piece by piece.
And guess what? It’s not just our friends we need to be brutally honest and transparent with. We first have to admit to ourselves that we need help. And, we need to talk honestly with God about our suffering. It’s okay! He can take it, and He cares. I think of the Apostle Paul and his struggles. He wrote that he had a “thorn in his flesh.” We don’t know exactly what that meant, but he was brutally honest with God about his struggle. Paul asked God three separate times for Him to remove the problem from his life. But this is the answer God gave him: … he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
Because Paul was so honest, God was able to reveal Himself as a grace-filled presence in Paul’s life right in the middle of the pain. If Paul never had his “to be honest” moments telling God how he felt, he might have missed out on the beauty of relying on God for strength.
Of course, Jesus is the ultimate answer, and turning to Him with our struggles will always result in healing! Without Him, I probably wouldn’t be telling a story of healing and restoration. My struggle could have ended so differently without Him. So many of us hit hard times and not only struggle, but drown in our own misery, turning to all sorts of counterfeit remedies to try to ease the pain. That’s why it’s important to be brutally honest—not only with yourself, but with God and others.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
God clearly wants us to be honest and to help each other, doesn’t He? Are you in a place where you feel lost and alone, trying to keep it all together? Have you been hiding behind a mask, pretending that everything’s okay? I encourage you to find someone to talk to, someone to be honest with. Open up about your struggles. I can promise you, you will feel so much better! It’s like what Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” Do you need a little sweetness in your life right now? I know I sure do.