August 2017
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the difference between openness and honesty


I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between openness and honesty. I used to think they were synonymous, but more and more I realize how completely different they are.
  • Honesty is answering truthfully when asked a question, without trying to hide or deceive.
  • Openness is offering truths without having to be asked. It doesn't mean you go around telling everything to everyone, but that you share freely with those who show interest.
Obviously you must be honest to be open, because if you are dishonest, you do not share truth, whether freely or begrudgingly. But you do not have to be open to be honest.

For a long time I worked on simply being honest -- it's harder than it seems. It's so easy to offer small lies or vague statements which serve to mask your true self -- hard to steel yourself to answering honestly when society expects pretty lies rather than uncomfortable truth. Being honest means people will consider you rude, crass, impolite. That stranger doesn't want to hear the truth when they say 'how are you' -- but 'fine' is one of the most common lies in the English language. Refraining from uttering that lie is a battle.

But I know many people who are honest -- I try to avoid people who aren't at least on the path to honesty. Openness is another thing entirely; I know very few who are even moderately open. Honesty is passive: openness is active. Open people seek to share, and to listen to others share.

Openness is a far harder battle, because rejection costs so much more with openness than it does with honesty. Honesty is about refusing to wear a mask -- openness is about exposing your inner self. Openness is about being vulnerable, offering not just your thoughts but also your feelings and beliefs. Openness is asking for help when you need it; sharing intensely painful or joyful experiences; sharing your emotions; sharing that which is sacred to you.

Also, honesty is simply telling what you know: openness requires learning who you truly are, looking deep into yourself in order to share what you find there.

Openness is a VERY painful journey, but oh, so worth it. An open person has little to fear from close relationships -- they have no secrets, they know they are loved for who they are. And people have little to fear from an open person, because they know where they stand with that person, and they can trust that person not to harbor hidden resentments or dislikes. They can relax, because they don't have to wonder if the other person secretly hates them, but is 'being nice' and hiding it.

I firmly believe that true freedom can only be found in true openness.


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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.