Part 2 of a 2-Part Series
Why is Honesty Important in a Relationship
Honesty builds trust. Likewise, keeping our word, or living what we say, also builds trust, and trust is the foundation for intimacy in relationships. Lies, deception, and hiding hinders trust and intimacy in relationships. When there is brokenness in a relationship, this is often the result of broken promises. Honestly acknowledging that we broke our word, and contributed to breaking the relationship, is the first step to repairing the brokenness, or being reconciled to the other. In my previous article, I outlined why honesty is so important in our relationships. In this second article in a two-part series, I introduce the following ways of practicing honesty, which promote healthy relationships.
1) Honesty Means Owning What is Yours in a Relationship
Healthy relationships require that we own what is ours. Taking responsibility for my own choices, motivations, tone, intent, and impact is essential for the healing or growth of any relationship. This requires honesty. Once I am aware of the impact of my own words, silence, actions, and inactions, being honest means naming the specific ways in which I have hurt you. Honesty also includes acknowledging my own wounds, flaws, sins, projections, issues, and hurtful tendencies. It means admitting that, “This is my problem.” Honesty is taking responsibility for my responses, reactions, feelings, and needs. It is best conveyed by using “I statements,” such as, “This is how I feel; this is what I need; this is what I’ve done,” rather than blaming and using “You statements.”
Honesty is both spoken and demonstrated, such as when we practice timeouts in order to de-escalate when angry. Physically removing oneself from a situation and disengaging, not to cut off or punish, but rather to cool down, gather one’s thoughts, clarify one’s needs, and subsequently re-engage, can help us to understand, be understood, and resolve hurts. This is a way of being honest about one’s needs, and at the same time demonstrating a willingness to stay connected and solve problems. Even when there is not a breach in a relationship, this offers an opportunity to experience more depth, and the honest sharing of struggles and weaknesses can invite sharing in kind. Owning what is our own can open the way for healing and deeper connections.
2) Honesty in Relationships Requires Concrete Action
Empathizing with the hurt that we have caused, and taking concrete actions to change, are vital steps toward reconciliation. In Romans 12:9a, we read that love must be sincere. There are few better demonstrations of sincerity than expressing a willingness to learn how I have negatively impacted another. When I invite feedback, or urge the other to “Tell me more,” acknowledging the impact of my actions and taking concrete steps to change, including enlisting the help of others, then my love is sincere. An honest desire to reconcile is demonstrated by reflecting back to the other in tone and words that I “get you,” without seeking to justify or explain myself. An honest attempt at reconciliation is seen in the specific ways in which I have sought to repair the relationship and prevent future damage to it, no longer justifying hurtful ways, but seeking help and support as I follow through on my intention to repent.
3) Acceptance, Honor, and Respect are Crucial to Honest Relationships
Honesty in our relationships means that we accept, honor, and respect. Romans 15:7 enjoins Christ’s followers to accept one another. Romans 12:10 exhorts them to honor one another above themselves. To accept involves honest recognition. It is to embrace what is, irrespective of the other’s personality, temperament, abilities, and limitations. To accept is not to tolerate sin, but it does not use another’s sin as a reason for withholding love. To honor is to honestly choose to recognize the good in another. To respect is to treat the other person with decency, acknowledging the dignity due to all people because they are all made in the image of God. It does not mean turning an eye from sin, but it may involve removing the log from our own eyes before we offer to help another with the speck in theirs. To respect is to restore those who have sinned with gentleness, or to share one’s convictions with regard for the other’s dignity. Accepting, honoring, and respecting are honest attempts to love as Jesus loves.
Christian Counseling as an Aid to Honest Relationships
Honesty in relationships is essential in order for trust is to be established and maintained. Honesty is essential for intimacy in relationships. It is necessary if peace is to be made when brokenness has occurred. Honesty is needed for restoring what once was and moving beyond hurts. Christian counseling can support and reinforce honesty in relationships, especially in fostering a setting where self-confrontation is encouraged and valued. Christian counseling also provides structure to a process in which truth can be discovered, told, and addressed, and in which it can become the basis of our freedom. If we are willing to know the truth about ourselves, and the truth about Jesus, and choose His ways, then He promises to set us free (John 8:31-32).
“Close Talkers,” courtesy of Charels Nadeau, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Folkestone Beach . . .” courtesy of Gareth Williams, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Couple on a Bus,” courtesy of ainlondon, morguefile.com