Sunday, May 4, 2014

The 12-step process: Honesty

When I started my journey through the 12 steps of recovery from sin a week ago, I think I undersold the first step a little more than I meant to. This afternoon as I sat down at Starbucks with a few hours to kill and mind set on tacking the second step, but I'm beginning to realize that there's a lot more depth to do with honesty than two short paragraphs can cover.

I made a concerted effort to be forthcoming about a sin of mine to Alexis my girlfriend this week, and that was a great stride. Awesome. Yes. More of that transparency will do me good and it builds a foundation on which she and I (or any of my other friends and I) can communicate with trust.

What I struggle with, though, is exactly why honesty is so difficult.

Initially, I blamed it on my vanity. I know that I struggle with self image and self esteem, and an easy way for me to feel accepted or impressive (at least in my own eyes) is to hide the bad-spots in my life. If I ignore those things and hide them from others, I think, perhaps they'll see me in a better light.

And for quite a long time, I haven't really seen omission as dishonesty. Is it really lying if you simply leave out bits and pieces of yourself? Nobody needs to hear those things, right? In some ways, that's correct. I don't think I need to go about spilling my deep dark secrets to the whole world, but if I'm living in a way that makes me uncomfortable with a transparent life, something is wrong. You can sin both by COMmission and by OMission. It's the same thing, because they're both methods of twisting the truth.

In either case, it's my living in sin and my shame that keeps me from being honest about how I live. Living in sin and shame - though Christ has freed us from guilt - is a vicious cycle. The longer you hide in sin, the more difficult it is to step out and ask for help, making honesty about your life - my life - really the only way out.

Even from the secular point of view, dishonesty is almost always about self-preservation. It can be embarrassing to be forthright. This world isn't always forgiving, and it's a reasonable fear to think you might lose friends by being open about your past or your present. Fear of being hurt, fear of being alone and fear of shame cripple us, but I think that those who claim Christ as savior have less of an excuse.

Isn't it then about trust? As I mentioned before, I don't think that transparency is about displaying your past for all to see, but trusting God to handle your future and trusting God to handle your relationships (friends, family, etc.) is a major step. God often uses our neighbors as tools to bring healing, and being open with our walk also opens us up to God's ability to change us for the better. Lying, omitting the truth and being closed off does exactly the opposite.

With all that said, it's a mystery why I cling to my over-inflated self image. Maybe it's because I seem to think I'll only get places in life if people like me, instead of trusting God to open up opportunities for me. It's not pride, as I previously surmised, but fear. And the only way to conquer fear is faith.

Wait, faith is step two? Good golly.