How Are You Lying to Yourself?
(originally published on DailyHap.com on 5/21/13)
Ego honesty is when we think we’re being fully honest for a higher good, but we are really being “honest” just to inflate our sense of self.
The Lie of Full Disclosure
John shares a rude opinion, despite the fact that no one asked for it. “You look ugly in that dress. Sorry I’m just being honest.” John has defined this shocking “honesty” as part of his personality, usually in direct opposition to the societal norm. He has decided that he is more honest than the average individual, because he feels free to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. He now thinks he is superior, falsely building up his ego. He probably doesn’t realize that this is going on inside him, and he might even think he’s being more spiritual, and compassionate, acting with more integrity.
The problem is that this is not honesty. It does not serve as a refusal to lie or deceive, it does not serve to adhere to the facts, it does not serve fairness. Is it truth or sincerity? No. Instead, it’s a self-deception.
Full Disclosure is Not Honesty—It is Impossible
Our thoughts are constantly shifting, moment to moment. Therefore it is impossible to share all of our thoughts. Truth and sincerity are not full disclosure. There is no such thing as full disclosure. Since our thoughts are constantly changing, we’re always deciding what thoughts to acknowledge and share with others. The vast majority of our thoughts are never shared—we can’t even speak or type fast enough to share them.
Plus humans often think ridiculous things—”I want to KILL him”—for a moment. Sharing that is not honest, because by the time you get around to sharing it you already realize that you don’t actually want to kill him. It is no longer true to your experience.
On top of that, we’re not very good at paying attention to our thoughts, and our conscious thoughts are usually not very representative of our “true” unconscious thoughts.
John thinks that a dress looks ugly on someone. Does that thought come to him, fully formed in a sentence? Or is it a gut reaction? Even from John’s (impossible) goal of full disclosure, he chose words to express the reaction. Did he have to choose destructive words to be honest? No.
“You look ugly in that dress,” is not truth, it is unconscious dishonesty. There is no objective beauty. He could express the same thought in many ways:
“I think you don’t look as good as you could in that dress,” or “I think that dress makes you look larger than other dresses.” John could get even get more accurate by asking himself why this person appears “ugly” to him: “It doesn’t serve to highlight your breasts.”
This is simply an opinion also, but it a truer representation of John’s thinking and emotions. He’s getting more accurate, more sincere, and therefore more honest, than before. He said “you look ugly in that dress” to build up his own self-image, even though he pretended that it was in service of truth. Stating this opinion and thinking it is because of honesty, ironically, is a lie.
This is an obvious example of ego honesty. It comes out in more insidious ways as well.
Ego Honesty in Self
A couple years ago I noticed myself bringing up in conversation the fact that Imeditate for an hour everyday. Sometimes that information was useful in a conversation, and at first I thought it was honesty. In truth, I wanted people to know how deeply dedicated to my spiritual practice I was. And underneath that was a self-doubt that I was in fact not dedicated at all. I had to prove my dedication to myself by impressing others.
One thing to note is that this is not always something to avoid. A better tack is to see the ego honesty in context of our life process and our stage of development—universally, and in the particular issue we might be struggling with. In the case of my meditation, I was initially scared or embarrassed to admit my practice. Telling people I meditate an hour a day was one way of overcoming my fear of being judged. It was actually a way for me to uncover unconscious fear and let it out, instead of covering it up.
From a developmental perspective, it seems that ego honesty comes only after we overcome fear. In that sense, it is a good sign. We just want to become aware of it, check in on the context, source the underlying dynamics motivating the “honesty,” and perhaps disclose that instead. By opening space for our fears we can more readily connect with peace and love.
From God’s point of view, or from the view of our true identity, of pure love, pure consciousness, we have no need to disclose anything or not disclose anything. We have no lack. Our “sins” are forgiven. Being afraid to share my meditation practice was an example of a fear of how I’d be defined based on something I do. Over-sharing my meditation practice was an example of a desire to be defined based on something I do. Neither one is necessary, and both involve a mistaken sense of identity, a mistaken answer to the question, “Who am I?”
That question is not just a philosophical undertaking; it underlies the desire for ego honesty in the first place and acts as a key to unlock true happiness.