A few weeks ago I posted a status update on my personal Facebook page and received unprecedented numbers of ‘Likes’. I mean, really. I’m not the type of person who excites fandom. My posts are voraciously long while my views opinionated. Not a comfortable combination for many, especially those seeking cheap thrills. Yet, there I was – a person who makes inconsistent appearances on social media and receives generally single-digit engagements when I do condescend to leave a statement but suddenly, I am flooded with triple-digit numbers. While most people today would feel accomplished by such results, I took my usual route towards digesting any aberration within the realm of my cognizance – I questioned it.
The post was on my advocacy of honesty. I discussed how I choose to be honest, even at the potential of being brutal, and how I never understood why people become offended by that. After all, is it not true that every time I speak a truth others may not enjoy hearing, I risk alienating myself or maybe even tangibly harming my material interests? And every time I speak a truth, no matter how unsoothing to the ear, I am handing a piece of my power into their hands? My philosophy is rooted in the realization that every time a person lies to me, they hurt me with two unsavory constants no matter what their primary goals may be: they take away my right to decide what I would have done with that truth and insult my intelligence by believing that I would never catch on. So when I am handing someone the truth, I am actually giving them the power of choice and respecting their intelligence to be able to handle that choice. Honesty can be a blood sport but it is more importantly liberating.
As I read the notifications while the ‘Likes’ rolled in, I wondered how many people actually shared my philosophy. Did they too store faith in the all-capacious power of honesty? If so, did they advocate that belief with their deeds? Or did they simply ‘Like’ the post because they hoped there was still a place in the world for truths? Or perhaps being associated with the idea made them feel better, even if only for a while? While I hoped that more people could practice honesty freely, I knew reality might be closer to the latter questions. But that is great, too, because if people felt good about siding with honesty in a random post, maybe when the action calls for it, they would side with honesty in real life too.
It was that idea of hidden virtue which struck me when I recently watched the movie, Miss Sloane. No worries, I will not now launch into a long movie review. But I will say that I could admire the title character for the way she remained honest to herself. While Miss Sloane’s driving force is an addiction to winning, for which she is not beneath resorting to nihilistic and stealth tactics, she uses her brutal nature for the purpose of good. Her approach is nearly Machiavellian but not quite. She plays with high stakes but subconsciously draws the line at risking the freedom of others even while gambling her own. This sudden demonstration in her need to ultimately act with good intentions is what helped me reconcile myself with those ‘Likes’. That maybe the difference between wanting to associate oneself with honesty is just a hop, skip and jump from being actively on the side of honesty.
Then there was that one point on which I could fully commiserate with Miss Sloane. The ability to sacrifice oneself for the greater good. Because when you are able to put yourself at risk for what you believe in, the rest is automatic. To me, that’s what honesty feels like.