Real Recognize Real

 Art by Dallas Clayton

Art by Dallas Clayton

How valuable is honesty? How interested are we really in hearing the truth?

When asked without context, most of us would say that honesty is very important and necessary for successful relationships. The truth of the matter is what matters most. To say it as it is, is a skill sought after by many. So, why do we continue to parade around with happy masks on all day, responding to those around us with confirmation that everything is always going good?

Because being real is scary. Because being real means being human and being human is being candid. And if I'm going to be straightforward and honest and open with others then I am removing my armor, displaying my vulnerabilities for everyone to see. The irony here? We value when others are vulnerable and authentic with us but we're terrified to reciprocate the same thing. The "It worked for them but won't work for me" story we buy into every time.

We've also learned ideals for what to share, how to share and why to share and they vary depending on what arena you're in. At work, I'm afraid to be real because what if they see it as weakness? Then I won't be seen as a leader, as someone with power who has the right and the ability to be fully human AND to take care of business in the work place. With friends, I'm afraid to admit what I'm really going through because what if they think it's lame or that I'm weird for even having these kinds of thoughts? With my significant other, I'm afraid of sharing what I truly feel because I don't want to hurt them or have them think that they can't do anything right.

So, we say the job is good, our time spent with friends is good and the relationship is going good. Meanwhile, beneath the surface, the truth within bursts at the seems, hoping to be understood, to be shared, and, at the very least, to be heard. But we keep the lid on because if it all started spilling over, it would make too much of a mess.

But if we can all be real with ourselves for one moment, it becomes very clear that life IS messy. By definition, life is everything but neat, tidy and clean. We are all one illness, one freak accident, one unfortunate event away from feeling like everything is falling apart. All we really want is to be able to share what's real with those around us.

This requires that the audience, the listener, actually cares about the person. Because putting yourself out there to people who don't deserve it will leave you frustrated and feeling more lonely. When we choose to be real, we are agreeing with all parties involved that it isn't going to be easy. Being empathetic takes more time and commitment. It takes courage to stand up for yourself and say what's really going on inside. And even more courage to respond to that person without fear, judgment or assumption.

Once you decide you want to be real, then you surround yourself with people who want to do the same thing. People who can step into uncomfortable spaces to share what they are ashamed of, what is dark for them, what keeps them up at night. When we support those around us without expectations or conditions, we can foster a bond that is real.

I challenge you to ask for what you want from your loved ones. To find people who care enough to be honest with you and with themselves. To be patient through the process because we don't always get it right the first time. When we can be real with one another, we open the doors to building relationships that will save our lives. Relationships that bring so much color, so much zest, so much flavor. Relationships that remind us of our shared humanity rather than our separateness.