01/22/2013 01:02 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2013

The First Bit of Real Honesty in a Long Time

If I've ever talked to you, I've probably lied to you and told you the most honest truth all in the same breath.

I tell the truth in such a way that I can get away with it without really committing to the sentiment. "I think you're the greatest," or "I think you're incorrigible," are both things I've said in the past few months right to someone's face. When I said them, I believed them wholeheartedly, and my reactions to those people were deep and sincere. But, that kind of brutal honesty isn't really acceptable, and it's definitely bizarre to flat out tell people those things. Aware of this, I said them with a hyperbolic tone and wild hand gestures so that I could get the truth out, but maybe trick someone into thinking I was just being weird. That's not honesty; that's deceit. Now that I consider it more carefully, it might not even be a very good plan, in terms of how I end up being perceived. Oops?

Even when I'm trying to be honest, I'm lying. It's really unfortunate, because I don't want to be a liar, but I also don't want to let anyone know the truth about me. The truth is a considerably vulnerable place to be, and I don't like it. I want to like it, and I want to be truthful, but I'm afraid. I'll wave my hands around and yell the truth at the top of my lungs, pretending it's all a joke. What a game.

When I did my senior thesis in high school, I chose to argue in favor of the censorship of literature, even though deep down, I despised censorship on a moral level. Why didn't I argue the opposition? Because I didn't want to commit to a position and allow people to know what I actually thought. It was easier to laugh and say, "I think it'll be fun to argue the antithesis of my real position," than to say, "This is what I truly and deeply believe."

There's an innate desire among humans to know and to be known, but there's also a strong-willed desire to be accepted. When the chance to be known is outweighed by the threat of being ostracized, I choose to hide. It's a shame. It makes me wonder, too, how many other people are choosing to hide. I wonder if I even really know anyone, and I wonder if anyone really knows me. I wish it weren't so hard to tell the truth, and to tell it well. I wish I weren't afraid to commit to honesty.

I don't know if there's anything wrong with disliking vulnerability. I do think, however, that it's probably pretty unhealthy for me to put my heart on my sleeve and then pretend it's all a joke. I just would rather be able to say the truth and let people think it's a lie than to never get to say it at all. I want the relevance of honesty with the protection of deceit, and I found a way to get both.

I guess the secret's out.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.