Honesty and being straightforward is underrated.
It’s great to be funny, nice, charming or interesting: but what about telling the truth even when it’s hard?
There are some things only truly honest and straightforward people understand about life.
Here are 11 rules honest and straightforward people live by to elevate their life.
1. Life is hard, but we’re all in this together
One of the biggest things only truly honest and straightforward people understand about life is that we’re all in this together.
They reject extreme individualism or the idea of every man for himself because a quick study of human history and social relations shows that we’re all interconnected and interdependent.
At the same time, honest people understand the value of individual effort and choices.
The outer differences, ideologies, ethnicities, and labels that divide us are mainly tools used by ruling elites to keep us fighting each other.
The truth is that we’re all in the same boat.
As civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said:
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
2. Love is rare, but it’s still worth it
Another of the top things straightforward people understand about life is that love is not like the movies.
It’s not about outer appearances, shared interests or any quantifiable characteristic.
True love is quite rare, but it’s not some storybook fairytale or romance greeting card.
It comes from self-love and integration, and it’s a wild dance that can emerge in the unlikeliest of places out of genuine connection and chemistry.
It doesn’t come when you’d like or on a schedule, and it doesn’t always look like something on a Hallmark card.
“What we call ‘true love’ is that rare and sacred union that happens when two people join in this dance together. It is a friendship, a love affair and an act of worship.
Passion, lust, affection, caring, trust, respect and devotion all become part of an exquisite surrender. Lovers merge with each other and with the vast, wild universe.”
3. Honest friendship is more valuable than diamonds
Truly honest people understand that you can never replace friends.
Life is a process of constant change and it’s never the same twice. This includes moving on from old friends, making new ones and even having fights or friend breakups.
But looking back it becomes clear that the friends who shaped us were more than just random individuals we stumbled across.
In a way they were parts of us.
And we were part of them.
And that’s really special and irreplaceable.
True friendship is more precious than almost anything else on this earth.
4. Sometimes honesty hurts
Straightforward people know that honesty is not just a warm and fuzzy thing.
Sometimes it cuts like a knife, ends relationships, leads to depression or takes a big toll.
But they also understand that the price of pursuing comfortable deception can be even worse, sinking life into a sea of mediocrity or years wasted on a lie.
Whether it’s breaking up a relationship after admitting to cheating or being honest with yourself that your recent conduct falls far short of the human you want to be, honesty is almost always the best policy – even when it hurts.
“We must put aside the idea that deception of those closest to us is something we do for their own, or our own, good. Hiding the truth leads to living a life of lies, as each lie inevitably requires another, and another, and another,” writes the Pacfic Institute, adding:
“That’s a lot of work, and a lot of energy spent maintaining a web of lies that will inevitably fail. It’s a false foundation upon which to build a life.”
5. There’s a difference between being honest and cruel
One of the most important things only truly honest people understand about life is that you don’t need to be cruel to be honest.
There’s a right and wrong way to tell the truth and they understand this.
If you’re a doctor and you barge in and tell your patient he has cancer with zero compassion or warning then you are an asshole.
If, instead, you take your time and ease into it, qualifying your statements with any hope and context you can offer then you have taken the time and energy to make one of the worst moments in someone’s life just a tiny bit better.
Truly honest people understand social nuance.
They get that there’s a way to tell the truth that’s gradual and kind, and another way that’s obnoxious and hurtful.
They go with the first.
6. You need to be honest with yourself first and foremost
The crucial importance of self-honesty is one of those things only straightforward people understand about life.
When you lie to yourself, you set yourself up for failure and disappointment.
If I tell myself that I love someone even though deep down I know it’s not true and then transfer that lie onto them, it’s only going to hurt even more once the eventual fact that I don’t love them emerges.
If I lie to myself that I’m perfect and everyone else is to blame for my problems in life I create an unwinnable situation in which I’m an eternal victim full of resentment and disempowered.
The words of blogger Skylar Rae really resonated with me on this topic:
“Your honesty with yourself is the foundation for a lot of things in life. For example, it is the foundation for healthy relationships, being your authentic self and understanding and processing your emotions.”
7. Respect is everything
Whether with family, friendships, or business, respect is so important.
Honest and straightforward people realize respect is just given away to every woman and her dog.
You have to earn someone’s respect.
To earn real respect, you have to act with integrity and stand for something in life. You’d rather do what’s right than what’s convenient.
In particular, respect has to be the cornerstone of any romantic relationship that’s going to last the distance.
Survey research shows men would rather be respected than loved. It’s wired into our DNA.
Watch this quick video to learn more about what men really need from a relationship.
I don’t normally recommend videos, but this one can be a game-changer for women who want to know what makes men tick (and dramatically improve the quality of their relationship in the process).
8. Inner beauty and honesty matters more than outer looks
Another of the top things only truly honest people understand about life is that inner beauty really does trump outer looks.
While they fully admit that physical attraction matters, honest folks also know that outer beauty can mask inner ugliness, and that being “plain” outside can just be the surface of a fascinating, sexy and amazing person.
Honest people never tell someone looks don’t matter at all, or that it’s easy being ugly.
They will be honest that looks do make a difference.
But they’ll also point out about all their experiences and examples from life where inner beauty and principles end up being so much more important than outer appearances.
This goes for friendship, romance, professional life and so many other areas.
Good people eventually shine through, and you can’t judge a book by its cover.
9. Being honest at the wrong time is not a good thing
Like Barbara Bent notes, there are times when being honest is the wrong choice:
“Being honest can sometimes hurt feelings without you realizing it. You probably wouldn’t want your boyfriend telling you that a dress makes you look fat, even though he’s being upfront with you.
The key is showing compassion when you tell the truth.”
10. Honesty isn’t always wanted, but it’s almost always needed
Many of us, myself included, would love to always be told what we want to hear.
And don’t get me wrong:
Support and encouragement is awesome and can be a huge morale boost!
But honest criticism can sometimes be the rocket fuel that leads us to our dreams, and if we react badly to honesty unless it’s what we already want to hear then we are missing out.
One of the things only truly honest people understand about life is that honesty isn’t always wanted, but it’s almost always needed.
Even if my friend tells me objectively that I’m getting a bit overweight – in a kind way – it can be hurtful at first.
But after consideration it becomes obvious that it’s all about what I do with that opinion he provided.
Do I react defensively and shut down, continuing with the habits that have led to me being overweight? Or do I do something about it?
11. There are times when a white lie is the right move
Consequential lies like telling a kid they’re yours when they’re adopted or lying about cheating are never the right thing to do, even if they’ll save you a lot of grief.
But sometimes white lies – or inconsequential untruths – can be the right way to go.
There are also times when telling a bit of a bigger lie can make sense, for example if your kid has just cut themselves quite badly on a hike.
You’ve bandaged it up, but the pain is bad, and your kiddo is panicking and getting frantic, so you and your wife assure him that it’s not a bad cut at all.
This is done for a moral reason and to prevent a disaster.
As for smaller lies, they can be necessary in more everyday situations.
When should you tell a white lie?
An example would be when you get a present that you don’t really want at all but you don’t want to be rude to your friend or loved one who gave it to you.
“Someone gives you a gift you don’t like. Do you say you don’t like it or something such as: ‘Thanks for the thoughtful gift?,’” writes Steven Mintz.
I think most of us who are decent people would go with option two there.
12. When you tell lies for selfish reasons they eventually catch up to you
The truth about lies is that they tend to have a surprisingly short shelf-life.
One of the things only truly honest people understand about life and telling the truth is that it’s just plain easier.
The reasons for telling the truth aren’t abstract or related to vague ideas of being moral: they’re also related to downright practical considerations such as how confusing it gets to lie all the time.
When you lie you create a whole web of untrue things that can eventually come back and get you.
Getting caught in your lies feels bad, is embarrassing and almost always is much worse than just having told the whole truth from the very beginning.
Why sign yourself up for all that pain and heartache when you can just tell the truth from the get go?
Like self-development expert Dawson McAllister writes:
“Know that your lies will ruin friendships and you will eventually get caught. And if you believe you are being lied to, trust your gut and confront the person you believe is being dishonest. It will be best for both of you in the long run.”
Iconic author William Faulkner has a quote which I just love about telling the truth even when it’s nasty.
He advised people to “never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
Faulkner may sound like an idealist but he’s right.
If we would be honest about ourselves and others there is so much incredible human and social progress that we could make almost overnight.
Our little and big lies wrap around us like a cocoon, stifling our growth and dimming our eyes, but instead of breaking free and becoming a butterfly, far too many of us wrap ourselves in the shreds of our cocoon like a blanket and close our eyes to reality.
We want to live in comforting illusions, avoid hard truths and just say what pleases others – and pleases ourselves.
But sometimes harsh truth is very necessary!
Being honest is one of the most important qualities you can have in this life.
That includes being honest to yourself most of all.
Starting by being honest with yourself, make an effort at every moment to tell the truth as much as possible.
Apart from the situations I mentioned above where a white lie or temporary lie may be moral and necessary, do your part to make the world have a little less drama and confusing lies.
Just tell the truth.
I know this is often easier said than done, but the good thing about it is that it’s like weight training: the more you do the stronger you get.
And the more truth you tell, the easier – and more satisfying it gets – to just keep telling the truth.
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