Dear Pope Francis,
A few weeks ago I was talking with my boyfriend about why honesty is so important to me. The gist of it was that as virtues go, I value honesty higher than any other because I used to be really terrible at it. He hugged me, and said “I know. That’s how it is with everyone. People value the things they’re bad at.”
At first, I didn’t think he could possibly be right, but then I thought about it. The young woman I knew who was most concerned with sexual purity and most upset by a perceived lack of it in anyone was addicted to porn. The most hard-working man I know used to sit around all the time and be frustrated that things weren’t happening in his life. Several friends who now value frugality spent far too much at one time or another.
For all of us, there was a period of disconnect between what we wanted and what we were. None of us were able to get rid of those vices overnight. As far as I know, we all continue to struggle with them.
What’s encouraging for me is that I can honestly say that I haven’t told a whopper in several years now, and when I’m calling to mind my sins at mass on Sundays, it’s not usually a list of all the little white lies I’ve told. Other things come to mind, like people I need to forgive, the coffee shop barista I was too miserly to tip even a little bit, and lately, all the times during the week when I haven’t been as gracious about my time off work and the wait for worker’s comp to come through as I should be.
Michael George, my ethics professor, used to say “people hardly ever change until they’re in crisis, because real change means deciding you give enough of a shit about your crappy life to change whatever it is that’s making it crappy.”
I’m 24 years old, and for the last six years, my New Year’s resolution has been to be more honest.
It started with allowing myself to be myself. When I stopped pretending to be perfect I started to actually enjoy the life I was living. I stopped feeling like I needed to invent stories about friends that didn’t exist and started being able to tell the real stories about the excellent ones I had.
Harder for me, was to stop expecting perfection of myself in my academics and hobbies. But once I stopped expecting it I started to be able to be honest with myself about what I had done instead of getting caught up on how I hadn’t formatted my paper correctly, or how the blanket I knit wasn’t symmetrical. I lost marks for formatting, but the professor really liked my thesis and thought I had a solid argument. The blanket wasn’t symmetrical and it had some stitches wrong, but the friend whose baby I knit it for loved it because I’d taken the time to make it. The story I wrote wasn’t well received, but it was important it got told.
It wasn’t until my family life went nuclear that I started being able to be emotionally honest with the people close to me. If I were to pinpoint the area I still need to work the hardest at, it would be this.
It took the collapse of a significant part of my social sphere to break the habit of protecting people’s feelings by avoiding the absolute truth. Ironically, the collapse happened because I told the truth. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?
I had the words “Testify to the truth” engraved on my T-Ring, both as a summary of what I learned in university and a reminder to myself. (I couldn’t fit all of John 18:37.)
I don’t pray I’ll stop making mistakes. I pray God will give me the grace to recognize them, the courage to own up, the wisdom to learn from them, and the self-control to not keep repeating the same ones.
For everyone else, I pray they’ll give enough of a shit about their crappy lives to change whatever’s making them crappy. Because usually, it’s something within ourselves.
Honestly at peace,