One thing I have always appreciated in my fellow humans is honesty. That is also one thing you can always expect from me. It seems simple, but humans have made it far more complicated than it needs to be. If combined with kindness, honesty can solve a lot of our everyday problems. Miscommunication, assumptions about what other people are thinking or about what their motives are, and fear of expressing our own feelings and intentions, probably accounts for three quarters of the problems we have in relationships; relationships with partners, friends, and work colleagues to name a few.
Not everyone wants to hear the truth. In fact, I’ve found that a lot of people really prefer denial. I don’t discredit their coping mechanisms. I too have used denial, in the past, out of the need to simply survive another day in an experience that was painful at best, and life altering at worst. Yet, there comes a point in our lives when we each must face the truth; about ourselves and about those around us. If we are to grow, if we are to evolve, if we are to find real happiness and satisfaction in our lives, than we must face the truth. This is scary. Truth and change are hard, but often very necessary.
My very best friends, those I surround myself with and call my family of choice, have always been “big mouths!” And I say this with the highest of praise because I too, am a big mouth! We are loud, we are opinionated but mostly we are honest! My best friends will call me out on my crap without a moment’s hesitation. They will look at my life choices and say “what the hell are you doing?” They do this because they love me and know that I want and treasure their honesty. They do this because they know that it is safe to be honest with me. Even when I don’t like the message I will still love the messenger. They also know that I will be honest right back at them. I never have to guess what they are thinking or what their motives are. This is a precious gift.
One area where honesty is most often lacking is politics. In fact, I think even the most sincere politicians, those with the very purest of intentions; have a hard time always being honest. It isn’t that they don’t want to be honest, it is that if they always say what they really feel they are going to offend at least some voters. So they walk a fine line between wanting to be elected so that they can actually serve their communities and being completely honest in everything they say. I’m not saying they lie, (although clearly some do). I’m saying sometimes they may feel that they have to avoid the truth because the conversation is one that many folks don’t want to hear. It takes a certain personality, someone with patience, who can be calm under fire. It takes someone who can combine honesty with kindness, and often with tact. It takes someone who can put their own emotions and feelings aside and do what is best for the people who elected them.
This is why I will never go into politics. I have a “gift” for being the person to say what everyone else in the room is thinking but is afraid to say. Not everyone counts that as a gift. It takes courage to face the truth, but it is necessary if we are ever going to have real growth and real change, that someone speaks it. Of course we must also account for the fact that my truth and your truth may not be one in the same and we need to be respectful of that. That is hard to do sometimes. For instance, when reading that a Virginia lawmaker publically announced his opinion that handicapped children are a punishment from God, I have a very hard time being respectful of his beliefs. In fact, I’d have a very hard time not slapping him if we met face to face. So, thankfully or regretfully, I will not be running for office, ever.
There are people, however, who can handle that pressure, who can respond in almost any situation with calm and logic and kindness. It is their gift. One of those people is a long-time friend of mine, John Schneck. (Yes, this is the unpaid political advertisement portion of this blog). I met John and his wife Mary when our daughters first became friends in elementary school! In the many years that followed, we have been there for each other through all of the good times, and the trying times, that raising a family involves. I have watched John remain calm, cool and collected through all that two teenage daughters threw at him. I’ve watched him work hard and make difficult decisions during trying economic times! I watched him handle a diagnosis of cancer, and all the courage it entailed to survive, with dignity and grace. I have watched him and his wife donate their time and energy to countless causes in Bangor because they care so much for the community they have made their home. I have spent hours with both of them, discussing and debating political issues and I am always surprised at how much he knows and how much time he has spent researching issues! Most importantly, I know I can count on him to be honest, with me as a friend, and with you as a representative, even when being honest may hard or unpopular.
In my life, those are exactly the people I’ve chosen to surround myself with. They don’t need to popular, or pretty or wealthy. They just need to be real people. They just need to be honest, with themselves and with me. There comes a point in each of our lives where we must face the truth in order to grow and change. The same can be said for our state and for our city. Maine has faced a lot of truth lately and change is happening. I am amazed at the courage and honesty I see in some of our best city councilors and state representatives! Real, good, decent people do exist, right here, in Bangor and some of them are even politicians. I’m proud to call many of them my friends and proud to vote for them when the time comes!
And if and when they do mess up, they can count on me to mention it, in the most honest and well-intentioned way. Because after all, we all have our gifts!