…honesty, according to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Actually, what the Big Book says is: “We must be entirely honest with somebody if we are to live long or happily in this world.” (pp. 73-4)
Let me ask you something: Have you ever been completely honest with one person about everything in your life? No, God does not count. And no, ‘compartmental honesty’ doesn’t count either: you cannot hope to live a long or happy life if you are partially honest with some people some of the time. You need to lay bare all of your innermost thoughts and secrets to someone if you want to be happy. As long as you have secrets, those secrets have power over you: You have to preserve the false image of yourself created by those secrets through lies and self-deception.
When you are entirely honest with someone about your life, your secrets lose their power over you. By one person you are completely known; with one person you can completely be yourself because they know your secrets and accept you regardless. It is an amazing feeling to be entirely honest with at least one person, though it is a frightening proposition.
Let me tell you about a process I went through that speaks to this truth.
Step 1 of the 12 Steps says: “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.” Acknowledging my powerlessness over pornography was the first step to my recovery; as long as I thought I was in control I would keep messing things up trying to ‘fix’ them myself. In order to fully recognize my powerlessness I had to write out the history of my addiction. Like many others I focused on the progressive nature of the addiction and the details pertinent to its history. I wrote many drafts to ensure that I had captured the facts accurately and thoroughly.
And then I read my history out loud to the 35 other men in my group.
You don’t have to be prone to anxiety like me to appreciate how frightening an experience that was. I told 35 strangers more details about my life than my closest friends and family knew! And I didn’t tell them pieces of the truth, or tell some guys some stories and other guys other stories…I told everyone everything I could remember about my history and addiction.
When I was done no one stood up in disgust and walked out of the room. No one frowned at me or spoke condescendingly to me. Instead they told me the parts of my story which resonated with them; stories of things I had done which they had done as well. And when everyone had their say, they all thanked me and clapped. That was one of the happiest moments of my life. I had finally laid down all the dirt and garbage of my life and no one judged me for the things I had done. Nothing was secret anymore, and none of those former secrets had power over me any longer.
What is your greatest fear in being entirely honest with someone about the problems in your life? Have you ever experienced the healing power of honesty?