You Allowed Me to Be Honest
March 12, 2013 by

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to see a play by the Fine Arts department on campus. It was quite a treat, seeing as we hadn’t had a weekend off work together in a long time. The play was A Gross Indecency by Moïsès Kaufman, which is about the trials of Oscar Wilde during the 1890s. There was one scene, towards the end of the play, when Oscar Wilde finally confesses to a friend that the rumors regarding his sexuality are true. His friend, who had believed in his innocence, replies that it doesn’t change his admiration and support for Wilde. Wilde thanks him for all of his support, after which his friend explains that he doesn’t know how he helped in any way. Wilde simply replies, you allowed me to be honest.

A knot formed in my stomach as I heard it, and I finally let out a deep sigh as I recognized the truth of it. Have you ever kept a secret that weighed so heavily on your shoulders? That prevented you from breathing deeply, that made your chest feel tight, that forced a dark cloud to remain over your mood and conversations with others? Those types of secrets, the ones that cause us to feel the most shame, are toxic – yet we stop ourselves from talking about them for fear of how others will react when they see the “real” us.

Sometimes, all we need is a space to be honest – to be real.

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So often, we hide the truth about our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors because we fear the reaction or aftermath they will cause. This secrecy speaks to the popularity of journaling: It provides a space not only to work out our own thoughts but also to hide from the negative reaction by others. We all have parts of ourselves that we do not like to share with others, parts about which our closest family and friends know nothing – ranging from bad habits to addictions, affairs.

Such a feeling of relief occurs once we are honest, once our shame is met with kindness. It feels as though you can breathe again. Holding onto shame is exhausting, and the only antidote is to talk with someone who can respond compassionately.There are pieces of my own past which cause the most shame for me – that were lifted only when I shared them with a dear friend and with my husband. Both  listened and empathized without any judgment or condemnation. And they provided nothing more than allowing me to be honest.

Now I could tell you to go share your secrets – but it’s not that easy, right?. There are times in our lives when we don’t have a person with whom we feel comfortable enough to share those parts of ourselves. And let’s face it, it is crazy scary. We have all had that moment where we share a piece of ourselves, and we receive ridicule, teasing, or betrayal. This type of reaction only causes us to hide our secrets deeper, making it harder to be honest the next time. So instead, I ask that you provide the safe place for someone else: for a friend, a sibling, a child – or even better, your spouse. Respond to their honesty with acceptance, and when you are ready, hopefully they will do the same for you.

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