It took me decades to recognize that most of the world values pretense above honesty, and that penchant for pretense was painful to me because I could feel the separation and isolation it creates from oneself and between people. I could feel the subsequent longing for connection that arises as a byproduct of pretense, and the desperate seeking for anything to feed the insatiable hunger the presence of connection would otherwise nourish.
Here's what I’ve come to know about living in a world that values pretense. Valuing pretense means you have to hide you from yourself. You have to hide what is important to you from yourself in order to make the things that are important to everyone else be important to you too. The consensus dictates what is supposed to be important, what you should care about and how you should behave. When you make pretense more important than honesty, your life becomes a lie. You have to lie to yourself constantly to perpetuate the pretense of caring about what everyone else thinks should matter.
Most of my life, I perpetrated an estrangement from myself because I tried to ignore what matters to me in order to live more like everyone else. Somewhere I thought if I could fit in better, then life would feel less painful. It felt too scary to reveal what I actually value because if the majority of the world values something else, well then there must be something wrong with me for wanting something different.
After years of inner reflection, I came to realize that the thing I have always wanted is to live in the raw vulnerability that accompanies true connection, the kind of connection that can only exist in the space of fully unprotected and transparent honesty. It’s only possible to live in this space with others when I can live in this space with myself. I’ve been practicing for years, and the journey is constantly filled with new revelations of where I was still hiding behind the protection of pretense. Each revelation has been an invitation to strip away more of the lies I was telling myself, and heal the suffering of estrangement I learned to believe was normal and simply must be endured.
Here’s the thing. It’s easier to value pretense over honesty. Pretense lets you off the hook from being honest with yourself, something which takes great courage in a world that doesn’t support that kind of deviance from the status quo. Pretense allows us to hide behind what’s appropriate rather than reveal what’s real. As long as we all agree to value pretense, then no one need ever be vulnerable. Pretense provides a predetermined set of societal standards and rules to live by as a permissible form of protection so no one has to divulge anything that might meet disapproval.
Being honest requires us to break from the socially engineered consensus of pretense, and commit to living more experientially present in the moment rather than always entranced by our thoughts about how things should be.
As I continue to elevate the value of honesty in my life, I heal the estrangement from myself that was the source of much suffering. I discover an unconditional sense of well-being. Suffering fades replaced by peace free from any need to protect, prove that I belong or need to be understood.
Perhaps you would care to join me in renouncing the importance of pretense, and discover for yourself what living can be like when you instead foster honesty in its place.