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Honesty Is An Important Aspect Of Sustainability


Hi everyone, I’m sorry to have taken an unannounced and unexpected day off yesterday. I fell asleep trying to write this, and wanted to mull it over a bit more before posting it.

Thank you for your wonderful gardening answers – wow! Did it inspire anyone new to garden, because it should – those are amazing words! Loved, loved, loved reading each of your thoughts.

So, on with it…

I’m going to be honest right up front and let you know that I’m not sure how this fits into sustainable living. But I suppose here is some connection: in addition to minimizing resource use and living with the whole world in mind, to live sustainably you have to live an emotionally healthy life.

I’m a relatively shy person deep down, and I grew up in a family that did not talk much about feelings. However, over the years I’ve learned a whole lot about feelings – in fact I’ve become quite in touch with my own and almost hyper-aware of others’.

Feelings are so important to really be aware of, in yourself and in others. They affect health, for sure. And also, good feelings transfer to other people as we move about our days… as do bad feelings. When I’m in a bad mood, I find myself cursing other drivers, not paying attention to my surroundings, rushing through my day, and in general leaving a wake of tension behind me. That can’t be good for the world.

Throughout my life I’ve tended to bottle up frustrations, resentments, disappointments, and confusion. So I’ve tried something new over the past few weeks: I’ve been trying to break down barriers of misunderstanding with honesty, openness, and transparency.

When I was in college, I used to spend hours writing poetry – I have books and books filled with my poems! Once, I decided it was time to take it to a new level with myself, so I entitled the book “Brutally Honest With Myself,” and I decided that whatever went in there would be completely and utterly honest. No holding back, no kidding myself, no allowing myself to get away with things I shouldn’t. It was amazing what a lasting impact that had. I learned a lot about myself this way.

And now I’m starting to take that principle into my life again. I think the world can be a much better place if we are all so honest with ourselves and others. Now, I’m not saying tell your neighbor you hate their hairdo (though if she asks, I will try to be respectfully honest…). Hairdos in the big scheme of things don’t matter so terribly much. But other things really do matter, and it’s amazing how a little open, respectful honesty can turn a very stressful situation into something really wonderful.

This works with work, school, friends, relatives, and certainly yourself.

The other day I met with a coworker and started the conversation by saying, “I don’t know what I want the outcome of this conversation to be, but I thought it was time to have a real heart to heart…” And can I tell you, after addressing my feelings openly, honestly, and transparently, a weight was lifted from my being.

After the weight lifted, I can do more, I can think more clearly, I can feel good and pass that good onto others. My whole look at life changed. From grey-colored glasses to rose-colored glasses, if you will. Honesty is a magical thing.

And honesty is especially powerful when it can be used to find lasting, sustainable solutions – not only in our personal and business lives, but also in our government and across world nations.

What Do You Feel?

How do you face conflict, frustration, and disappointment? Are you brutally honest with yourself? Is that even possible?

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16 comments to Honesty Is An Important Aspect Of Sustainability

  • I ride a fine line between brutal honesty with myself and delusional overreaction.

    I’m more apt to let things go if the conflict involves people I see rarely, or don’t have a solid relationship with. For some reason I have to air the laundry so to speak when it comes to people I care about, kind of a contradiction, I know. Thankfully they seem to accept this about me.

  • I’m with Kory on how I handle that.

    I think the key work on your journal of poems was Brutal to go along with honesty. Sometimes being too truthful is also being brutal and I try to distinguish between them and carefully choose my battles, so to speak.

    While being honest with our own feelings is good it isn’t always productive.

  • Isn’t that what therapy is all about? Being honest with yourself. I went through years of therapy to learn to be honest with myself, and other people. Unfortunately I have a really hard time with complete honesty with the people I’m closest to…of course if I am asked a direct question I will answer it honestly, but I don’t want to hurt my family’s feelings I often don’t let them know that something they do bothers me and that just leads to other problems. So I’m still working on that.

  • James

    Less information should go between people who know each other less. It’s a basic premise. Consider the difference between what you would expect from a diplomat from a foreign country at war with us, on one hand, and what you would permit with an old, trusted friend.

    With greater trust comes greater exchange of information; with greater exchange of information comes greater trust. So, no paradox.

    I myself am quite honorable at honoring property rights but, I was raised by a philosophy that sounds a lot like the song “Silent Running.”

    “Teach your children quietly/ for one day sons and daughters/ will rise up and fight where we stood still.”

    Well if you have vivid (past life!) memories of being burned at the stake, it has an impact on your children. To her credit, we didn’t have a gun beside the doorway– it just felt like it was going to be needed.

    I tell you, that song raises goosebumps on occasion.

  • After losing 4 close relationships over the last few years I sought out counseling- I figured I was the common denominator. It seems a lot of my issue was being straight with others. Also in turn, they were not that honest with me either. I think that year of counseling changed my life in the sense that it taught me to be comfortable with myself and how I was made therefore in turn it was okay for me to be real with others-including being honest about difficult things if that was on my mind. Often times I don’t know how I feel about something so I have to mull it over a few days in order to figure out my feelings. But if there is something that needs said I will usually say it respectfully but honestly. My hubby after 10 years of marriage has had a somewhat difficult time at times with this new part of me. He’s not used to me being so direct and honest about how I feel. He likes it at times b/c I’m more lighthearted it seems. But sometimes his insecurities come into play and it’s difficult for him to accept the truth or my honest opinion. But then there are those times where I’m perceived as mean and possibly was and I think thats where the willingness to apologize comes into play.
    I think with being honest we have a responsibility to also apologize if we hurt someone else. Not apologize for how we feel but instead apologize for hurting someone else. This I believe looks different in every situation and needs to be evaluated by you but an apologetic spirit/humble spirit is also I believe should go hand and hand with the honesty

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Take Care,

  • Over the past year as I have been reading blogs like this one and No Impact Man, I have come to realize I wasn’t being honest with myself when it came to sustainability. I thought I was living lightly, but there were a lot of lies by omission, born because I wasn’t paying attention. The more I pay attention, the more honest I can be.

    In dealing with other people, though, truth is more slippery. There is always your truth, my truth and the facts of the situation. I find a sort of re-working of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism and work best for me. I keep in mind that:

    1) Pain (or mild irritation!) happens.
    2) Suffering doesn’t have to happen- I do that to myself.
    3) I am responsible for paying attention, and deciding if the suffering is best dealt with by me giving up my irritation, or by dealing with the source.
    4) As long as I practice paying attention and resisting bad behavior (right view, right intention), as long as I say and do what is ethical for me (right speech, right action and right livelihood), then I will be OK.

    I also remind myself that I don’t know the back-story for most things I observe, and that it is never helpful for me to pass along my unpleasantness.

  • I guess I am ‘carefully honest’ ….I tried a year ago to finally stand up for myself and tell someone (family) that I thought I was being treated rather rudely. I had hoped to have a heart to heart conversation and end up with a closer relationship….instead I was blasted and attacked for things I purportedly did 7 years earlier !?!?!

    I figured out thru our many email conversations that I was just a convenient scapegoat for her myriad of unresolved issues. I now know that with certain people honestly doesn’t work because they are too caught up in trying to outrun their own pain.

    I’m so thankful for the good friends that I have, knowing I can be myself and be fairly honest (oh come on….who wants complete honesty….you don’t like my haircut…LIE :) and they will still love me….warts and all.

  • This post really resonated with me! I too think of myself as quite a shy person. I typically avoid tense situations and conflict, I have difficulty expressing myself and my feelings and I too let this build up over time or deal with them passive aggressively.

    I’m slowly starting to work on this with the help of Marshall Rosenberg’s work on non violent communication. It’s pretty awesome!

    He looks at the language of communication and how it often leads to conflict, judgment and defensiveness and then he provides tools for a new language, to communicate in ways that help one identify their feelings, values and requests so that the needs of ourselves and others are met in a compassionate and life giving way that honour and respect the one another. It’s quite wonderful.

    Of course I am far, far, waaaaay far from mastering it! But I am slowly working on it bit by bit and it’s helping. I think it’s especially important for people in the sustainability/green/environmental movement who are trying to communicate with others about lifestyle and behaviour change issues etc.

    Plus, Marshal Rosenberg is a poet and folk singer. How great is that!

  • This is so cool. My girlfriends and I were talking yesterday about honesty and taking responsibility for choices that you make.

  • [...] overly busy is a more kind, still accurate description?  Melinda made a good comment in her post, Honesty Is An Important Aspect of Sustainability, so I am fessing [...]

  • Di

    I could have written this post word for word, except rather than poems I lost myself in art and music. I think the big issue for me is trust. I trust very few people so I struggle to open up to them. Like you I am fairly shy (despite what people may think) and I get affected deeply by peoples actions. This is something I plan on working through over the next year.

    How do you face conflict, frustration, and disappointment? Are you brutally honest with yourself? Is that even possible?
    Well conflict regarding my shortcomings I deflect. I hate being wrong, rather than admit it I deflect the situation. THe good thing is I now KNOW I do this and can change. Frustration is a tough one, usually resulting in bad moods, swearing at drivers, swearing at myself and generally feeling down.Disappointment can go either way, either full steam ahead, work around the issue or dwell and get depressed. I don’t think I am brutally honest with myself, I think it IS possible, I just haven’t attained it… yet

    Love this post!


  • I have learned in the past few years how much better it is to be honest and forthright about things. If you have good intentions and try to say things with an underlying feeling of kindness, you can be much more open with people.

  • What a thought-provoking post. I think as Di brings up, trust is also a key component. Do you find that being so honest allows you to trust more? Putting yourself out there and being accepted for it reinforcing the trust? (I’m just imagining how it works right now…)

    I definitely struggle with feelings. Most of the time I try my best NOT to feel anything (except things like joy). Feelings are just too complicated for me. Still, probably not the healthiest way to regard feelings, and it seems like a lot of the sustainability journey is about health: your own and the Earth’s. I wonder. I think letter-writing helps for me. I get incredibly tongue-tied around people, but writing letters works for me.

  • katecontinued

    Beautiful post. For me this is one of the goals of 2009: Let the Sun Shine – transparency. It is vital in this political world and in my personal world. Beth’s comment resonated with me as I have lost friends and family with what I believe is my own candor. Maureen’s comment struck a chord for me: I now know that with certain people honestly doesn’t work because they are too caught up in trying to outrun their own pain.

  • Very interesting comments. Thank you all for sharing your experiences!

    Beth, Christy, Kory, Tameson, Maureen – you’ve made me realize that there is an important aspect of this honesty: humility. This is more or less what Maureen calls “carefully honest” I think. And what Beth calls a “apologetic spirit/humble spirit.”

    I needed to work on literally being brutally honest with myself for a time, because I wasn’t being honest nearly enough. But certainly, you all are right, that brutally honest with others doesn’t work so well. Being open, honest, transparent – but with a sense of humility – is very important. It’s finding the balance between being humble and careful of others’ feelings, and making sure that the air is clear, that everyone feels good, that no one harbors resentment.

    Tameson, I think you’re right. I have not had much luck with therapy, so I have done the work myself. : )

    Willa, “I have come to realize I wasn’t being honest with myself when it came to sustainability.” What an interesting point – I also came to that realization. I think for me it comes in stages of realization, as well as observation and paying attention.

    I reach a certain level of change, and then I realize there is another level beyond that which I can now strive for. For instance, I came to a point where I’d made a lot of changes to my personal lifestyle, and then I realized that there is a stage beyond that, which is to help others make changes in their lives. And then the level beyond that is to create change in my local community, and so on…

    Amber & Di, I think it’s always going to be a process, for each of us – mastering it doesn’t seem in the cards. ; ) But step by step, we grow. Amber, thank you for the links – compassionate communication sounds like a wonderful concept. I look forward to learning more. Di, trust – mmm, so important.

    Michelle, :)

    Allie, Exactly.

    James & Stephanie, Regarding trust, I think that being transparent and open allows for others to trust you more – whether it is personal relationships or large-scale diplomatic ones.

    When I am honest with my feelings, and lay them on the table with an obvious concern for the other person’s feelings as well, it is extremely powerful. It opens doors in others that they themselves didn’t know could be opened. And I think you’re right, Stephanie, it has a lot to do with a trust that comes from true honesty being laid before you by another person.

    Stephanie, writing poetry and writing in a journal helped me a great deal, as did writing letters to trusted friends. I, too, find written words easier. Though I also find that the more I know myself, the easier it is to speak out loud.

    katecontinued, Maureen’s words are truly lovely – and an important point. Transparency – indeed – I admire these goals you have for the new year. Let The Sun Shine!

  • [...] that does. If you feel you’re doing too much or too little or not doing the right thing, be open and honest about it. People like that – it’s refreshing. And usually the end result gets you closer to [...]

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