A song that occasionally pops into my head is the alt-rock classic by Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris.” The lyric that especially resonates with me is from the chorus:
And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
These two lines have always stood out to me but they’ve taken on different meanings over the course of my life. As an easily mortified 13-year-old, I connected with the idea of wanting to hide away from the world. Harrassed by my peers and embarrassed that my parents existed, I often wished I could hide away under a rock.
When I sit here at 34 and look back at that time in my life, I see another perspective. During junior high school, I decidedly did not always tell my peers the truth. I was always honest to a fault with my teachers and parents but fearful that being straight-up with my classmates was a terrifying thought.
To be clear, I was not a habitual liar and most of the untruths I told were inconsequential at best. Maybe I told a friend that a boy I liked passed me a note during 5th-period language arts when he, in fact, was responsibly doing his classwork, because I wanted people to think a cute, popular boy liked me. Or maybe I told a nosy classmate that the “apt” abbreviation on the note I received from the office stood for “appointment” instead of “apartment,” since single-family homes were the standard in that community. But lying is lying, no matter how insignificant the lie may seem to its creator.
Thankfully, and much to my chagrin, I was caught in that lie about my crush passing me a note. I say “thankfully” because it was at that moment that I decided that honesty was always the best policy. I’ve been pretty truthful to a fault since then.
How do I accomplish this life of truth? As much as I would love to say that I just tell the truth all the time without confliction or anguish. What started out as a way to avoid getting caught in any more lies lead to avoiding people and places to avoid having to tell the truth.
Of course, it goes without saying that this approach is unpractical at best, disastrous at worst. I had chosen to become conflict-averse because I was fearful of how other people would react. In fact, I tossed and turned all night on Friday because I knew that it was not likely I would be able to make it to my friend’s going away/birthday party. I felt horrible, but low funds and limit transportation just would not allow me to make the trip out to her home.
I toiled over how to approach the situation, worried that she would not believe me, when it dawned on me: be honest with her. So, two hours before the shindig, I called her and told her what was up. Unsurprisingly, she understood and offered to meet up for lunch before she leaves.
Immediately upon ending that call, the knot that had been growing in my stomach for the last 3 days dissolved into nothingness. I don’t know how I thought she would react, but years of being bullied for things beyond my control caused me to fear rejection and criticism of any kind.
This circumstance is not unique. I’ve had this exact conversation with myself before. Not everyone has been understanding. But truth has served me very well. Not only can people trust that I am being honest with them but I can better discern the value of friendships. If I am honest someone and they are unwilling or unable to understand where I’m coming from, then maybe it is time to reexamine that relationship.
Be honest with people about what you’re going through and allow the truth to lead you from anxiety to honesty.
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
— John 8:32