Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue…
I am not sure what Billy was thinking about when he wrote the song Honesty, but it’s hard to argue with his lyrics. The words of the song are unfortunately absolute, but brutally honest, and sad. Most of us can recall adults uttering the words “honesty is the best policy.” But how many of us really feel that we can be honest with everyone, especially all the people we have grown to, or are expected to love?
I was talking with my good friend Greg recently about our experiences at work, but more specifically about how closely linked our approaches in our personal relationships are to our professional ones. He shared some responses he received from men who participated in what we would call a “man talk” session.
So these talk sessions are usually done in work places to breathe some creativity into the work environment by sharing lessons learned. For those of us like Greg and I, we talk about projects that changed behaviour in people, families or communities.
We worked for ages with street youth for the YMCA and we gained a lot of insight from the boys in that programme. What was most beneficial was the fact that women, especially feminists, saw the value in our programmes and began to ask us to explore how our work was re-socialising boys and men to value non-violence.
I am raising this history, because Greg and I found that we were dealing with gender issues through our work. We didn’t share the popular view of instilling punishment and fear of authority, but focused on instilling personal responsibility and building the consciousness of the guys we worked with.
We built an amazing personal relationship, which fostered dynamic understandings and approaches to nurturing problem-solving with participants in the YMCA’s programme. We challenged each other, not merely in the professional environment, but also in the personal aspects of our lives and our relationships.
So, when Greg got the opportunity to talk to men working in the public service industry, he spoke about his personal experiences in an attempt to challenge mainstream ideologies about the role of men in the world of work. There is an old school view that one should remove their bias from such presentations. I think that’s crap. We need to state our ideologies, claim our bias, but be open to learn along the way because knowledge is not stagnant.
“I received an applause for my 18-year marriage – to the same woman,” Greg exclaimed. But he went on to tell them “you know many of my friends refuse to believe that I have never had an affair,” his friends would say, “Yeah Greg, you travelling all over the world and you never had an affair?”
I remember friends telling me, you can’t tell a woman you are dating that you were unfaithful, “you only looking for drama and stress.” But why would we keep a secret from someone we ‘love?’
Most men seem to believe that affairs are part of the game for all relationships, but I remember telling an ex-girlfriend about an inappropriately intimate engagement with another woman. I was honest, and it was the worst experience I have ever had.
She didn’t threaten to kill me, she didn’t even argue. I, on the other hand, was a hot mess. I was ashamed, cried, and was sincerely gutted because I really let myself down. I was vulnerable, and seriously confused. There was no need for a blaming game.
My view is that it is my relationship and thus it is my responsibility to ensure I was happily committed to it, or needed to end it. One friend simply asked me to keep my drama to myself and not share it with her, but the idea of being dishonest about my feelings simply distressed me. Looking back on it I am still very happy I remained honest with myself and told her the situation I got myself into.
Greg asked the guys if it is normal to cheat on your wife, “why don’t you tell your wife what you get up to with other women? How would you feel if your wife told you she slept with another man? Would you end your marriage, or see a reflection of yourself in her actions?” The audience was embarrassed into laughter.
Transparency in your relationship is not just for your partner, it is ultimately for yourself. Questioning and examining a relationship is normal, and denying ourselves the space to do so could be the major contributor to dysfunctional relationships. Too many of us settle into a relationship because we do not acknowledge we deserve better, or we are just clueless about what we really want.
Too many times relationships are misrepresented, and neglectful of the fact that we are humans capable of feeling differently and changing along the way. It is sometimes our inability to know our limitations and willingness to change, adapt, and spice things up, that makes it hard for us to grow in a relationship.
What’s even more important, as Greg emphasised in his talk with the guys, is “how can we be great in our professional lives, and lie to the partner we are building a life with?”
Now that is an oxymoron, if ever there was one. As men, we must start valuing the personal and humane as much as the industry and the systems we create.