Honesty is a central topic in human relationships. We all want to be told the truth, and we all try to think of ourselves as honest persons. Even so, the fact remains that we all lie, even if only in little ways. We offer excuses that are not the real reasons for not getting something done. We act happy to see someone when we are not. We are all skilled at portraying one thing while thinking or feeling another.
Why the discrepancy? It seems to me that dishonesty is all about image. We want to project a positive image of ourselves, and being honest would ruin that image. So we churn out a constant stream of slight misrepresentations, in order to raise a good-looking mask, which we can hide behind. Becoming more honest, therefore, is usually less about saying things that risk hurting someone else, and more about admitting things that risk hurting that false image.
A Course in Miracles teaches that honesty is a characteristic of the truly psychologically healthy. Yet the honesty it speaks of is far more extreme than our usual concept. It says that real honesty means total consistency between what you say and what you think and what you do (M-4.II). Everything you say matches your thoughts. All of your statements agree with each other. You always keep your word. What you practice actually mirrors what you preach. Even all your thoughts agree with each other.
This level of honesty is so lofty that we are not going to attain it tomorrow. What we can do, however, is walk toward it. Inside each person, I believe, is a yearning to be totally honest. Just by getting in touch with that yearning, we set out in the direction it points to.
First, let us think about the strain that comes from having to maintain an image of ourselves that is not true. Maintaining this image is not only hard work, it makes us feel like a phony.
Now, let us try to see how we would feel if we were completely honest. Imagine, if you will, that everything you say matches your thoughts. (You might want to close your eyes and repeat to yourself, “Everything I say matches my thoughts.”) Then imagine that you always report honestly what you have done. Now imagine that you always keep your word. Imagine further that all your statements agree with each other. You tell everyone the same story. Finally, imagine that every thought you have is in complete harmony with all the rest of your thoughts.
How did that feel? If all this were true, how would you feel about yourself? When I imagine these things about myself, I feel a sense of wholeness. I feel at one with myself, not uncomfortably split between a mask and what hides behind it. And I feel true, not phony. In short, I feel peace. And that is something that all the well-crafted images in the world can never give.