Thursday, November 08, 2007
Radical Honesty
AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically, recently wrote an article for Esquire about a movement called Radical Honesty. According to Jacobs:

The movement was founded by a sixty-six-year-old Virginia-based psychotherapist named Brad Blanton. He says everybody would be happier if we just stopped lying. Tell the truth, all the time. This would be radical enough -- a world without fibs -- but Blanton goes further. He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. Confess to your boss your secret plans to start your own company. If you're having fantasies about your wife's sister, Blanton says to tell your wife and tell her sister. It's the only path to authentic relationships. It's the only way to smash through modernity's soul-deadening alienation. Oversharing? No such thing.
It's an interesting theory, and this guy apparently seems to really live by it. Jacobs describes his initial contact with Blanton:

I e-mail Blanton to ask if I can come down to Virginia and get some pointers before embarking on my Radical Honesty experiment. He writes back: "I appreciate you for apparently having a real interest and hope you're not just doing a cutesy little superficial dipshit job like most journalists."

I'm already nervous. I better start off with a clean slate. I confess I lied to him in my first e-mail -- that I haven't ordered all his books on Amazon yet. I was just trying to impress upon him that I was serious about his work. He writes back: "Thanks for your honesty in attempting to guess what your manipulative and self-protective motive must have been."
Blanton is not a Christian, in fact he doesn't believe in the categories of morality - only in pragmatism. He simply asserts that radical honesty is the only way to true relationships and real communication - it provides you with a better life. No hiding, no masks, no pretension. He says that even all the little white lies we tell in order to not hurt other's feelings are really harmful, and that people would be better served if we just told them the truth and allowed them to tell the truth to us as well. But he also says the point is relationship. After you tell the truth, even if it's offensive or hard for them to hear, you stick with them and help them work through it until the tension is resolved.

So here is a guy that is taking literally the bible's command to not lie, and yet how many Christians would be willing to adopt his lifestyle of radical honesty? Would you? And if not, what are the reasons we give ourselves for why we shouldn't be completely honest all the time? (In other words, why we shouldn't do exactly what the Bible says.)
posted by Mike Clawson at 1:05 PM | Permalink |


At 11/08/2007 02:12:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

wow, that's crazy pants. I guess I'm not really sure how I feel about that. I don't think the "why don't we do exactly what the Bible says" holds water for a more "liberal" Christian like me - I don't do exactly what the Bible says on most things and if they were honest (hehe) most other Christians don't either.

I guess the excuse I tell myself is that I'm flawed and I don't need to bring hurt into someone else's life with my flawed thoughts about them. If I think you're an idiot - it doesn't mean you are - it just means I think you are. So by telling you, I'm not necessarily being honest, just unfiltered.

I there's a difference between social filters and honesty.

I think you might have just given us our next pub philosophy topic though.


At 11/08/2007 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Mike Croghan

Also, I'm honestly not completely sure that the Bible categorically forbids lying. The 9th commandment forbids bearing false witness against your neighbor (i.e., claiming someone did something they really didn't do), but there are plenty of other things to lie about that aren't covered by that commandment. Does the Bible forbid lying across the board somewhere I'm forgetting? I'm not questioning that the Bible commends a general policy of honesty (and *certainly* of trustworthiness), but I'm not so sure it commands "radical honesty", even if one does happen to be more of a literalist.


At 11/08/2007 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

I agree Mike.

I dunno, I certainly wish I could be more honest without people getting their panties in a bunch all the time but I'm not sure I can excuse removing the brain-mouth filter by calling it honesty.

If I were to be honest (hehe) I would say that this sounds like an excuse for someone to be an annoying ass.

I wouldn't even advocate this level of honesty (and I wish there were another word for it because I don't call it honesty - maybe more of a lack of social filter) with my spouse. Sometimes my honesty would encourage and uplift him but more often than not, if I just spewed whatever came to mind, it would serve to tear him down and bring hurt and pain into our relationship.

the only way something like this could work is if EVERYONE all the time and everywhere agreed to it AND if they had worked through their own issues enough to work with the person toward relationship AND if everyone was whole enough to recognize when they were being honest and when they were just being deceived by their own issues (and the enemy for that matter).


At 11/08/2007 04:48:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I agree Makeesha. I think there's a big difference between lying and simply not saying everything that you're thinking or feeling all the time. It's not being dishonest to choose not to say certain things that we think or feel but which we know are not most representative of our true feelings or opinions. After all, we're all a mess of contradictions, and just because I think something doesn't necessarily mean I believe it.


At 11/08/2007 04:52:00 PM, Blogger Anne Branch

I can see this being cathartic for me, but pretty toxic for the people around me.

I think that in a fallen world, the best practice is somewhere in the middle, you know? I agree with makeesha - my thoughts are flawed. Way flawed.


At 11/08/2007 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

that's a good way of putting it - it would probably make me feel good but not be great for those around me - esp. those for whom I do not have the time or energy to invest in the relationship long term

that email conversation that was given was distressing to me actually. i don't see how that's good.


At 11/08/2007 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Do you mean the email conversation regarding the old widower poet guy?


At 11/09/2007 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

the email conversation with the reporter - if that's radical honesty then all I hear is an excuse to be unnecessarily rude.


At 11/09/2007 02:36:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

I agree with Mike Clawson. Big difference between choosing not to say something, and saying something untrue. I knew a guy in college who for a semester or two used that line of thinking to justify being an a-hole whenever he felt like it, to whoever he felt like. "I'm not being fake like everyone else is" was his response to any challenge. There are options in between the two extremes of wearing a mask vs. being an unfiltered jerk in the name of honesty.


At 11/11/2007 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Pollux

I completely love your blog--there is always something here that asks just the right question of me.

I first read this post this morning, before worship service. At church, I asked several people what they thought about Radical Honesty. Most thought it was a terrible idea. I was still excited by the concept.

Then, I read the Esquire article; Now I have to agree with makeesha. Radical Honesty would certainly be cathartic for me, but in so many cases, it would serve to spread negativity to others, and there is just too much of that in our world already.

The people I have known who did lack social filters were always people I was a teensy bit jealous of, deep inside. Still, my filters often help me get over my instinctive first responses, which allows me to see others through better eyes than I might have, which sort of gets me closer to seeing like I believe Christ would want me to see.


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