“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” Mark TwainFinding one’s own truth and expressing it is the most important path to heal damaged self-esteem, and to live a meaningful life.

We all are such phonies – from time to time. We compliment the neighbor on their new flower bed, even though we find it hideous. We agree with a new boss, although he has no idea what he’s talking about. We lend support to a desperate friend, when we know that all that can be done is to accept the loss.

So many of us have learned how to please others and don’t even know what our own stance looks like. Or worse, we know exactly what is looks like and can’t find the courage or the heart to be sincere about it.

We so often want to protect another person from hurt that we start bending our own convictions.

Honesty does not have to be brutal. It can be spoken earnestly and with warmth, without giving in to anger or inflicting needless pain.

I have recently been studying Buddhist ethic principles, one of which calls for “Not Lying.” It doesn’t focus so much on being true to others, but being true to yourself.

The author, Robert Aitken, cautions that what is needed is “…to be loyal to the essence… The by-product of such loyalty is that we are true to others. […] Self deception, deception of others, cheating, gossip and carelessness with language are all disloyal to the peace in our heart of hearts.”

I find such references more and more often. It is essential to begin with our own innermost beliefs and needs.

We are taught early on not to be selfish and to put others first.

But the truth is that we absolutely have to start from our own innate point of reference. If we always put the other first and have no clue what we actually hold dear, we are unable to truly attend to another person.

If we don’t know and can’t express our innermost truth, we remain dissatisfied, unrealized, chronically ambivalent and ultimately depressed.

We need to learn to express inconvenient truths, hidden needs and dismantle false claims of harmony. We’re not doing anybody a favor by holding back and making nice.

So much of our public speech is just that. Politicians maneuver and don’t say much of anything to avoid losing votes. Some business leaders lie and cheat. The public realm is dominated by public relations talk which primarily wants to sell a point.

Clarity is needed more than ever. First and foremost within one’s self.

photo credit: Foto_di_Signorina