Written by Noah benShea
Every person who has ever suffered from addiction of any kind has also suffered from dishonesty. In the world of addiction, fear of shame or incarceration makes dishonesty a passport. Anyone who denies this is lying.
On the healing side, all personal transformation from any negative habit requires self-witnessing. But the commitment to tell yourself the truth — the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — is a very steep challenge. Anyone who thinks this is easy is also lying.
Now, architects will remind us that the foundation of any building determines the height of the building. So let us examine a deeply foundational issue in the ability of any of us to be honest.
Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Give a man a mask, and he’ll tell you the truth.” Translated, this means, it’s easier to face the truth when we don’t have to show our face. A person with a mask doesn’t need to fear being discovered. And if we don’t need to guard the secret of our failings we can begin our healing.
Of course, there are some who confuse the openness afforded by anonymity with the dishonesty of secrecy. The difference between anonymity and secrecy is subtle, insidious and important.
Think about a time when you didn’t tell the truth because you feared what others would think about you or that they would reject you. Social beings have social fears. Secrecy is born from a fear of shame, and shame is a midwife to avoidance. A problem avoided is a crisis invented.
Anonymity, however, affords us the mask we need to tell the truth to ourselves. Anonymity affords self-accountability without social incrimination.
Certainly a lot of us who are judging others use religion or historic social norms or just the way we were raised to loudly shovel shame on others. Still others of us are raised to be silently judging. But what isn’t said between people is also heard. If anyone doubts this for a moment, simply ask someone in a relationship if they are calmed when they ask their significant other, “What’s wrong?” And hear, “Nothing.”
Everyone crying isn’t crying out loud.
Let us afford each other, and ourselves, a right to be anonymous and not a need to be secretive. We don’t need to know someone’s name to be caring. Privacy is not secrecy. Privacy means we have a right and a requirement to be honest with ourselves even as we are anonymous to others.
As the old proverb goes, “charity begins at home.” And the root of the word charity is “love.” Love yourself enough to afford yourself anonymity. You will find it is self-liberating and other-liberating.
Anonymity means we can stop playing hide and seek with the truth. And remember the shout of kids when the game was over: “Olly olly oxen, free, free, free!”
Granting anonymity heals both the giver and the receiver from the shame of judgment. Lady Justice is blindfolded but is not blind. And judgment without mercy is not justice.
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