Honesty Is Contagious

{Photo Credit :: Just Be Splendid}

This week in teacher training we have been studying Satya (aka “truth” — one of the five yamas/guidelines for living, provided by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra), so naturally I have been doing a lot of thinking about honesty.

The truth is complicated, layered, and three-dimensional.

First off, I firmly believe that “the truth” is complicated (and, shhh, I’m not even mentioning that there might be a bigger picture “Truth” to contend with). I view “the truth” like an onion … each layer is part of the larger whole, but those individual layers also hold their own shape and have their own character. In a sense, “the truth” is three-dimensional; it can be squished flat or inflated beyond recognition, but regardless, I believe that it is still some version of the real thing.

But when does it morph into a lie?

So the truth is complicated, has many layers, and is capable of being contracted and expanded, while still retaining some amount of integrity … but eventually, at some point, it ceases to be “the truth” and becomes “a lie” — at what point does that happen? A few scenarios to consider:

  • The “Having Fun Yet?” Guy. We’ve all got at least one of these people in our lives. Someone who repeatedly asks us a question that they don’t really want us to fully answer. Like if you were to one day respond with “Actually, no, I slept terribly, I spilled tea on myself on my way to work, I am behind on my deadlines, and I really don’t want to be here today,” instead of your usual tight-lipped “absolutely!” … it may actually shatter their world.
  • The So-Called “White Lie.” You and I both know full well that we’re guilty of this one. We say: “wow, look at that sweater … it’s great — so unique!” When what we mean is: “omg, that sweater is so hideous that I couldn’t help but comment on it, and now I have to try to cover up that comment as a compliment so as to avoid offending you completely!” It’s a vicious cycle.
  • The “I Can’t Afford The Consequences Half-Truth.” This one often comes up in the context of work. Your boss asks for your “honest” opinion about something and you know that your honest answer would not be well received, so you gloss over your true opinion and offer up some half-true version for the sake of keeping your job. (Hey, a girl’s gotta eat!)

Mary Pafford tells us that in Buddhism the lie is the ultimate “evil” and that “the worst level of ignorance is not being truthful when you have that option.” But does that mean that if being truthful is not an option, it is okay to tell a lie? And under what circumstances might being truthful cease to be an option? Do any of the above situations qualify? {Oh man, my lawyer brain could get so lost in that whole line of thought!!} Suffice it to say, there is no easy answer to any of these questions.

You know it when you feel it.

What I do know is how I feel when I choose to be nonviolently honest. I feel good. I feel lighter. I feel connected. I feel authentic. I feel vulnerable. I feel whole.  I like it.

And what I have noticed this past week is that — with the right/safe people — honesty is contagious. When I share my truth, it becomes okay for the other person to reciprocate (and vice-versa).  And after this sharing takes place, a new deeper level of connection arises. And successful attempts at honesty just create more space for future sharing to occur. It’s a cycle worth repeating. 

So, what do you say: shall we practice being honest together?


  1. I love Satya. What a beautiful yama. And I love how you put it as “nonviolently honest”. Ever since learning about satya I find I feel really bad telling any sort of lies and have found ways to tell the truth as much as I can as long as it won’t be hurtful.

  2. I love the reminder that truth is three dimensional! So true.

  3. I like how you said that truth is contagious. So true and just hadn’t though of it that way!

    1. Thanks! Me neither until I had brunch with an old friend and it was like a lightbulb went off! Ahh those brief moments of partial clarity are sure nice when they happen…. :))

  4. Ok, this is scary how similar we are….the solace in knowing that we are all dealing with the same societal conditions is priceless.

    1. I know, right! For the past year I’ve been having a lot of these “oh wow, my brand of crazy is way more normal than I thought” moments. It’s been an extremely refreshing perspective…

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