When we think of the word honesty, we tend to associate it with ‘not lying’.
However, during the past week, I was challenged to be completely honest and to be mindful of this act. As such, I came across a different perspective of this word ‘honesty’, one that is more complicated than merely avoiding white lies. The act of honesty manifests in a myriad of ways. At times it can reveal itself as acceptance, whilst in other situations it can be expressed as confrontation.
Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that there exists a perpetual contradiction of human nature. That is, although a large part of us craves knowledge, understanding and truth; the other side of us wants to shy away from fact and actuality. Why…? Perhaps, it is because we are fearful, sometimes confused and at many times, vulnerable.
It was around eight o’clock on Tuesday when Mimi called me. I answered; and in complete nonchalance, she uttered, “He cheated on me.” We both sighed. It was not out of despair, but rather, it was due to the feeling of disappointment. It seemed as though the romanticised and everlasting love we had once dreamed of as children was gradually disappearing.
I guess Mimi had already been anticipating this outcome. Missed calls, delayed messages, excuses, unfounded rows – the usual premonition. More so, it wasn’t the first time a relationship of hers had failed due to her partner’s infidelity.
She then resumed to ask me, “Why do you think these kind of things happen Steph?” I paused for a moment. Potentially, I could tell her it was just the consequence of human imperfection – that people are prone to making mistakes. I could also claim, on a bias, that straight men would always lust for someone new and mysterious. On the other hand, I could falsely console her, saying that she got unlucky with an individual who had an inclination to cheat.
However, I treasure Mimi. Offering a platitude as an attempt to alleviate her burdens seemed cheap. I didn’t want her morale to be trapped within the confinements of my half-assed philosophies. The truth was, I knew that none of my speculations could ever be concrete.
So, I said to her honestly, “I’m really sorry, I don’t know either.”
By Thursday, Mimi had arrived at a height of anger. Inevitable, she felt betrayed, disrespected and used. She would be on the phone for hours – ranting, listing his inadequacies and tearing apart the character of her now ex-boyfriend. Whilst it seemed like it was her attempt to persuade me of his inherent evil, I honestly felt like it was more so her method of coping with losing an individual dear to her.
I felt upset that my friend – who is in nature a very calm and loving person – had decided to enslave herself to this emotional rampage. I wanted to tell her not to vilify him; as, by eradicating all good in her perception of him would only be a dishonest act to herself.
Nevertheless, I didn’t correct her. Because, if this was what allowed her to find temporary peace within her grieving, then I was willing to accept that.
Two days had passed, it was a Saturday and I met with Mimi at a café before going to work. As we sat on the tall wooden stools, gazing out at frenzied traffic, I took the liberty of asking her, “Are you okay?”
She responded, “I think I’m fine now…but you know, I can’t help but think that there were more problems in our relationship than purely a tendency for him to cheat.”
At first, I thought it was ridiculous that she should feel even a trace of responsibility towards the downfall of her relationship. After all, he was the one who had cheated.
However, I soon realised that she wasn’t trying to find fault in the situation; instead, she was trying to find reason and truth. So, I suggested, “Perhaps you both became complacent, you stopped putting effort into the relationship and you lacked appreciation in him. But, it wasn’t your fault for being unable to preserve his interest in you. You shouldn’t blame yourself for that.”
Monday came along, it was a new week. I called Mimi to ask her how she was doing. Better, apparently. Of course, she had been reflecting upon the past, though fearful for what was to come.
So, I said to her, “Above all, you’ll need to accept change. You need to be prepared that your life will become different from what you’ve been used to.”
In the past week, I have come to the understanding that honesty is not always easy.
Sometimes it may seem simpler to live in ignorance. Nevertheless, when you care for someone, it becomes a responsibility to inform them with what you believe is honesty and truth. This may be confronting.
However, when honesty is accepted with an open mindset, it can be refreshing and even empowering. Therefore, I deeply encourage everyone to be honest with themselves and with others – to accept truth, even when it seems difficult to tolerate.
Words by Stephanie Zhong
IG – @stephabibi
Illustration by Samantha Doyle