Sometimes, to move forward we must look back and honor the lessons that shaped us.
As a lifelong student of personal growth and development, I have committed considerable time and energy to self-improvement. Along the way, there have been some profound experiences, but one was life-changing. I’d like to share what I learned with you here.
It was a Texas Summer day and I found myself in the middle of some new existential crisis, seeking answers about the mysteries of life. Staying stuck has always propelled my natural curiosity to unearth deeper truths and for me this work had always seemed clearer when guided by a therapist.
The basis of this particular journey was tied to a history of being who I thought everyone expected me to be. Meanwhile, I was quietly yearning for a completely different life. By meeting everyone’s needs first, my own rarely came into focus or took priority. This duplicitous approach left me feeling chronically stuck, misaligned, unfulfilled and confused. Until that day…
I recall my therapist’s Southern drawl vividly and she painted a new reality, saying “Jason, our only role in life is to be kind and honest.”
My initial reaction was that couldn’t be true. Our role in life was not meant to be summarized into one simple statement. Yet, something about those words felt magical and true. In perfect timing, new language had arrived just as I struggled with being caught in two worlds. I was at a crossroad, trying to craft a new future while reconciling a complicated and often painful past.
Kind and Honest felt like a life preserver.
Initially, I was not really clear on the work ahead, but something told me to dig in. The words hung in the room. I started by honoring what had been said and feverishly attempting to wrap my head around their application. What I initially loved about this concept was the feeling that I might already doing it. Being a “polite” Texan had prepared me perfectly for this role, or so I thought.
Careful examination and a few thought provoking questions clarified many things. I would like to share what I uncovered.
What does being kind and honest actually mean?
The answer wasn’t immediately clear, but has revealed itself over time. The real work begins through the relationship you have with yourself. To fully grasp this concept, one must approach the topic with kindness and honesty. It is impossible to give something to others that you cannot yet give to yourself. I quickly understood that I had been kind and honest to others, but not myself.
Now that I knew better, so what?
This new awareness was like a light coming on.
It revealed a deeper understanding of my role in the process. By asking the question, I wholeheartedly knew I had really never been completely kind or honest with myself. At first, I couldn’t grasp what kind and honest would look like, so I decided to start with what I thought it was not:
- People pleasing…saying or doing what you think others need
- Not setting healthy boundaries…saying NO, when appropriate
- Compromising your integrity/beliefs to make others more comfortable
My understanding revealed that I often took the easy path to make others happy or keep the peace, which had literally kept me from connecting with my own self. Most importantly though, it inspired me to get beneath the surface of my constant misalignment.
There is a quote I love:
Doesn’t the same apply to the relationship we have with ourselves?
Along the path, we can only meet ourselves and others from the place of our own experience. To that end, here is what I have learned about kindness and honesty. For me, it boils down to three essential steps.
- Showing up
- Being authentic
- Telling YOUR truth
I realize none of these are particularly easy, in fact, often daunting. Each requires action that will likely catapult us from our comfort zone, potentially leaving us vulnerable and exposed.
Showing up is our willingness to say YES to pursuits that feed our soul. You know those things that many scare you but can make you smile, regardless.
Being authentic is the alignment of our real truth. The place where who we are meets who we are meant to be.
Telling YOUR truth, is sharing yourself with others from your own perspective, which is made from individual beliefs, experience and history.
I believe that the journey to kind and honest starts with a willingness to connect with ourselves in a deeper way. We will never be able to share with another from a truth that isn’t our own. Trying to do so, is merely story-telling, which likely is not fully and authentically aligned with your own belief system. This work expands our own knowing and ultimately allows for a broader personal truth.
In the years since this awakening, being kind and honest has served me well. In the times where I struggle to respond in a way that someone needs, I can call on my kind and honest.
I have chosen to let this approach become my true north. What I have learned is that being kind and honest isn’t always the easiest path. In fact, sometimes, it angers people. Which always reminds me of the old cliché, “the truth hurts.”
Today, I laugh when my own kindness and honesty causes a reaction. It makes me feel more alive and aligned with myself. My sincere hope is that it creates a new light inside the dark places of others.
Are you ready to be kind and honest?