David Whyte is a writer of poetry and prose. He writes on things which deeply move the human spirit. In his book ‘Consolations’ he writes about honesty.

‘Honesty is reached through the doorway of grief and loss…┬áThe ability to speak the truth is as much the ability to describe what it is like to stand in trepidation at this door, as it is to actually go through it and become that beautifully honest spiritual warrior, equal to all circumstances, we would like to become. Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power over life or another or even the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence, where we acknowledge how powerless we feel, how little we actually know, how afraid we are of not knowing and how astonished we are by the generous measure of loss that is conferred upon even the most average life.’

a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence

This certainly rings true for me. It seems to me that there are two different levels at which we can engage with honesty. The simpler level at which we can choose to reveal what we know to be true or we can conceal it or actively deceive. This is not complex.

But it is clear, to me at least, that there is also a subtler level. And here there is a spectrum. The degree to which I am able to be honest is the degree to which I am willing to enter my own wounded spaces, my own vulnerability. It speaks directly against any kind of ‘brutal honesty’. Whyte goes on to write:

‘Honesty is not found in revealing the truth, but in understanding how deeply afraid of it we are. To become honest is in effect to become fully and robustly incarnated into powerlessness.’

I pray for the grace of courage, I desire to be ever more honest. This quality of honesty cannot help but be clothed in compassion.

3 thoughts on “Honesty

  1. “This quality of honesty cannot help but be clothed in compassion.” Absolutely! This quality of honesty allows us to be what Henri Nouwen calls “wounded healers” and to live with integrity. Thank you Mags.

  2. The most affecting and effective teachers I’ve known have been the ones who were most open and candid about their struggles. They model courageous honesty for me.

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