Radical honesty. Ever heard of it? Me neither until I found this fascinating drama on Netflix, Lie to Me. Tim Roth is the lead guy. He plays an entrepreneurial psychologist whose firm is hired by various entities to determine who and possibly why someone is lying. Roth’s character, Dr. Lightman, believes that if you are human, you lie. He has learned how to recognize and interpret microexpressions- tiny movements your face and body make which tell the truth even when your words do not. There’s an awesome cast and each episode tops the other and actually makes me sit still for close to 45 minutes at a time. Not an easy task.
So the cute, curly brown headed assistant is the one who has vowed to practice radical honesty. It is different from plain ole honesty in that he doesn’t pussy foot around topics deemed sensitive. He doesn’t labor over his words in order to keep other’s self esteem in tact or a paycheck coming in. He doesn’t mince words when asked a direct question. It’s amusing and liberating to watch. Sure, he steps on toes, makes people gasp or recoil in surprise, but he also makes people smile. Radical honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. It got me wondering…What would our world look like if all adults practiced radical honesty? How would our relationships change? How much better off would our emotional state be if we could say what we think, express how we feel, and allow the same of others without fear of retribution or loss? Or are some things really better left unsaid?
Well, I happen to have two radical honesty practitioners in my house and I have worked with, babysat, and interacted with hundreds of others throughout my life, but I never had a name for what they do so well until now. Generally speaking, this group of individuals is pretty darn happy. Maybe they are onto something. Children, up to a certain age, are ruled by their feelings. They feel like doing something, they do it. They feel like saying something, they say it. How much relief would you have if you could just say what’s on your mind? If someone asked you how you felt about a given situation and they truly meant, “Give it to me. I want to hear how you feel.” Wow. Think about the discussions that could open up. Think of all the pent up feelings, happy and sad, relieved. Think about how much more we would understand and appreciate each other or, on the contrary, stop wasting our time trying to get others to appreciate us. Think about how your work place, schools, and government would change. It begs the question, why do we condone a social system that dampens our ability to truly speak our mind; one that seems more concerned about appearances than real honesty? And why do we have laws that actually work against our feelings? Oprah Winfrey got sued for 12 million dollars for saying she wouldn’t eat another burger, people! Yeah, yeah, I get the slander thing and defamation of character, which aim to keep mean spirited and ill intended people in check, but she was stating her feelings after learning about the deplorable conditions of the mass meat industry. Good grief.
In our home, my little radical honesty practitioners keep it real. The oldest, a sensitive, intuitive kid is more aware of the social dos and don’ts now that’s he’s 9. Baby girl, age 4, not so much. Here’s an example of her radical honesty at work. We have a new kitten. He’s awesome. We all love him very much. He is entertaining, super cute and snuggly, but he’s also a little rough. He’s drawn blood…on all four of us. Baby girl was playing with him the other day and he grabbed a hold of her arm. He was biting and jumping, being rambunctious like boy kitties are and he hurt her, but mostly, he made her mad and she started telling him off. I don’t like you Zen. You are a dumb, dumb, cat. You are a chicken, idiot, stupid. You are not cute. You are not fun and you can’t live with us anymore. I’m going to put you outside and you can’t come back in, ever. This went on for a few minutes as she cried in my lap while I stroked her hair and listened. She’s done this before, a few times actually. To her brother, to a much bigger neighbor kid who knocked her down on the trampoline, and to me and her Dad. When she gets going, we don’t interfere. We just let her get it out. It’s like an emotional burp. The words release built up pressure and makes her feel a whole lot better. Now, if you aren’t accustomed to this or if you think kids should not spout out “bad” words when they are angry or upset or confused is wrong, than you shouldn’t visit our home or invite us over. If you remove yourself from an event we show up to, I’ll shoot you a “gotcha glance” and know you don’t want the “bad” influence. But before you blackball us, you should know that after a few minutes, sometimes longer depending on the offender and offense, she is fine and ready to put the incident behind her and have fun again. She may even apologize for saying “those words” without any encouragement from me and explain to the offender why she got upset. How’s that for problem solving? I am glad she doesn’t know cuss words.
I know kids embarrass us parents or make us uncomfortable with the things they say or don’t say. They aren’t good at maneuvering all the social codes we’ve put into place. A code that is full of tiptoeing, putting on airs and happy faces, white lies, and nonverbal cues. It’s confusing enough to most adults so you can understand how wacky it makes a kid feel and they shouldn’t be expected to bear the pressure of it all. As parents, we should give them a safe place to express their feelings, to be open and honest without fear of rejection or punishment. If my kids are unhappy or frustrated, scared or concerned, I feel compelled to listen first then guide. And if they need to vent by stringing a list of words and random thoughts together in a Clark Griswold Christmas bonus breakdown fashion, then so be it. Next time I’ll be sure to have the video camera ready. In the meantime, I’ll make a pact with you, my momma friends. If your kids say something to me or my kids that might embarrass or make you uncomfortable, or if they fail to say thank you or please or excuse me, don’t sweat it. I understand. I believe that they’ll find their way and eventually learn to speak our language, but a part of me kinda hopes they don’t.