When you build something, whether it’s something like a house, a business, or a piece of software, you want to start with a solid foundation. If you don’t, you may find yourself with problems down the line because what you created can’t withstand the stress of everyday use.
The same goes with building relationships, be they business, family, neighborly, or romantic relationships. A key ingredient for a solid foundation for your relationships is honesty. Sure, having things in common with people, sharing the same passions and values is quite important, but honesty cements those things and fortifies your relationship.
“Honesty”?When we talk about honesty, it’s important to be clear about what we mean. There’s a world of difference between being insensitive and hurtfully blunt and being honest. To be fair, the truth sometimes hurts when we hear it, but we must ask if we are speaking to people with sensitivity and the intention to build them up rather than simply saying our piece.
The Bible reminds us that truth must be spoken in love. Sometimes that truth will sting, for example, when Jesus called the religious leaders of His day “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs” to their faces and in public, but he intended it to challenge them to edge closer towards recognizing their blindness and desperate need of him.
He was loving them. We too must assess whether our words are being spoken in love and for the good of the other person. Telling “white lies” to look good or “protect” someone may work in the short term, but it can build a harmful pattern within your relationship that erodes whatever you’ve built.
Apart from that, being honest is about integrity, authenticity, and reliability. Have you ever had a friend who changed depending on who they were with? If they are with the party crowd, they join in and become a party person. If they are with the religious folks, they can easily line up right beside them and blend in.
Such a friend isn’t reliable because they don’t seem to stand for anything. If they are ever caught in a situation where they must make a stand and express an honest opinion, there is no telling which way they’ll go. If someone isn’t being genuine about who they are or what they believe in, and they change themselves to fit in and make friends, you can never know where they stand.
Do they really like the things that bind you together as friends, or is it just posturing? For deep relationships that are meaningful and last, people must know what they are getting and find you dependable.
Why is Honesty So Important in Relationships?
Honesty is important for relationships. Without it, you don’t know if you can trust what comes out of a person’s mouth or their actions.
Relationships are founded upon trust.
In relationships, you share pieces of yourself with the other person. That may be your time, personal stories, your vulnerabilities, talents, and much else. That takes trust. It’s part of an in-built self-defense mechanism, but typically people don’t entrust themselves to people they know aren’t dependable or truthful.
There’s usually far too much at stake to place yourself in the hands of someone you know is duplicitous. The way that trust is built up in a relationship is through doing life together and building up a history of experiences where a person’s words and actions match up. You may be able to fake who you are for a time, but eventually, the truth comes out.
So being honest about who you are is the best way to build trust because when push comes to shove, you are you and that’s who will show up in a pinch. Posturing and then being unable to deliver is one sure way to disappoint people who have placed their trust in you.
Planning and building for the future.
Relationships are built upon a foundation, but they also invest in the future. When you get married to someone, it’s usually to build a life together and spend it going through whatever comes with your partner by your side. That future can be jeopardized by dishonesty. If you can’t trust what a person says that chips away at the foundation and the future you thought you had together.If you can’t trust what a person says, how can you trust them when they say they are committed to you? No marriage can function if you don’t trust that your spouse will follow through on the vows they made to you.
If you are constantly plagued with doubts and worry about how someone you love will behave, that state of anxiety is not good for you or your relationship. You can’t take risks – such as getting married or having kids with them – because the foundation of the relationship is shaky due to a lack of honesty. You can’t give yourself fully to someone you don’t trust.
Being honest is about more than surface behavior. It’s also about a way of living and a person’s character. A lack of honesty speaks to the possibility that either they don’t feel comfortable being who they are, or they are simply inconsistent.
Honesty brings freedom and growth.
When people are honest with one another, and they build up a culture of honesty in the relationship, it allows them to relax when they’re with one another because they know that what you see is what you get. There are no pretenses or posturing, and you can be comfortable being yourselves around each other.
You don’t have to wonder if anything is being kept secret or hidden. You don’t have to work to be accepted or contort yourself into being someone you’re not so that you are appreciated. There are no agendas to keep a lookout for.
That is freeing, especially because we live in a world where people aren’t always open about their intentions. Honesty means that we know that we are secure, and the other person genuinely cares about us, even if they must tell us hard truths from time to time.
This also means that relationships based on honesty are relationships where people have growth opportunities. None of us is perfect; no one has arrived, and we all must grow until we become mature in Christ. In any relationship, there will be challenges, and our immaturity will be exposed.If you can speak honestly about your own and each other’s shortcomings (which is a huge step of faith because honest conversations can end relationships) you invite the possibility of learning about yourself and growing. Facing situations honestly, you can solve problems and work through any misunderstandings together.
Honesty also grows you as a person in terms of your character and how to use your words. If you are committed to being honest, it teaches you to have an accurate assessment of yourself and your capacity so that you don’t promise what you can’t deliver. That makes you a more reliable person because people can take your word to the bank.
Being honest also helps us to be more aware of the effect of our words because we learn through experience how our words land with other people. We can then learn to be wise and gentle in how we speak the truth, which is valuable for relationships.
Honesty is the most important ingredient for any relationship, especially romantic ones. Without the trust that honesty builds, it’s impossible to ground the relationship and make it stable. You just don’t know who your partner is, what they honestly think, or whether things are going as well as you think they are.
A lack of honesty can damage a relationship by creating conflict, suspicions, doubt, and insecurity. The flipside of that is that honesty in a relationship creates room for growth, freedom, and a stable foundation upon which to build your life.
If you and your partner have experienced a breach of trust, or the relationship doesn’t feel like a safe space to be honest, consider seeking professional help to help you work through this and get to a place of honesty with each other.
“Speak Truth”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee and a Good Book”, Courtesy of Avery Evans, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Black Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing Cliffside”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License