Weakness or strength? Part II Honesty and Transparency

First Id like to apologize to you because I know this post is late. Life got in the way.. But I'm still here and still with you (if that is at all comforting..hah)!

I was randomly reading and thinking about Bernie Madoff earlier. Yes, its Easter, and because today is a day of gratitude for all that Jesus went through on that cross for us so that we could have life, I started reading something on the modern thief of thieves- the ponzi scheme king: Bernie Madoff. Living in New York and first-hand seeing and experiencing the mess that one man created by his multibillion dollar lie was incredibly real.. lives were destroyed.. I should hate him along with all the rest of the world- specially with all the rest of New Yorkers- but for some reason I feel compassion towards him. Yes, I actually feel sorry for him. What he did was awful, I'm not trying to defend him. But I think I understand a little about how a person like that got so caught up in something that started manageable but then it became huge, scandalous, unmanageable, deceiving.. To a massive scale. And it seemed that it was too late to stop it. Too scary to end it. But he was VERY successful. Strength or weakness?
For some reason I feel like it could easily happen to any of us. I've seen it happen. Of course when talking Madoff we are talking tens of billions of dollars, but on a much smaller scale, I feel like we could do that very thing if we allow ourselves to quiet the voice of our conscience for just long enough to take that first step into dangerous territory..
Madoff, who has recently had a heart attack in jail, has said that when he first started his ponzi scheme he was only trying to get ahead a bit and then he would have stopped. He didn't know that it would become that big that fast, but he never had the courage to say that he was wrong. So he kept his persona. So there he was. Living very wealthily, very respected at the time, at the top of the word, but keeping up with this persona that he created had him living a lie.

When asked what the worst part of being in jail was, this is what he said: 

"I can understand why clients hate me, the gravy train is over. I can live with that."
"But the worst thing about this new life in a North Carolina prison is not seeing my family and knowing they hate me. I betrayed them."

Then his son hung himself on the second anniversary of his imprisonment. And now Bernie had a heart attack, its also been reported that his liver is failing and he is refusing treatment. I know all the bad that he has done. But I don't hate the guy. Enough people already do. He is the perfect preface to what I want to say. 

Honesty and transparency are the best policies. Sounds so obvious and yet it is so difficult. Why is it that being honest and transparent is so difficult?! Here are 3 reasons why:

- We don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.

Sometimes we are not honest because we don't want to answer the 'do these jeans make me look fat' question, or maybe we don't want to tell someone that they're not good enough to pursue a specific career, or that they didn't do their job well enough. So we beat around the bush. Or sometimes we don't want to be honest because we are trying to avoid confrontation. Maybe we've started something that was supposed to not be a big deal and now has escalated out of our control. Most people strongly dislike confrontation and sometimes its easier to be a "yes man" than to say what you REALLY think. And then we start with the white lies.. the people pleasing white lies.. the "harmless" types of lies. But we all know that gets you nowhere, because confrontation, sometimes, is unavoidable. The key is to know when confrontation is necessary, to pick your battles, and to do it with grace. Never accusing, but asking. Never fighting but with calm. Always respecting the persons feelings and position whether or not they do the same to you. Why should we show respect when we are confronting a person who probably didn't do right by us? Because it works better. Because it shows strength. Because its the correct thing to do. Because if you want to be respected, you must first respect.

- We don't want people to know the "real" us. Its vulnerable.  

I cannot count how many times I've felt this, heard this, or was easily able to point it out on somebody else, but the truth is- we (more often than we'd like) don't want to let people too close because we've all been hurt too many times. And a lot of times we actually begin to believe its our fault, we are not good enough, we are undeserving of good things. This problem ranges from a REAL issue that should be treated with real care and maybe even professional help, to 'day to day' unfortunate events that slowly but surely robs us from our self worth. You start out fine, but then it sneaks up on you with time. Experience after experience.. then you realize: You quietly stopped believing you were good enough. You let go of your dream, you settled for less... So we quickly come up with this persona that fits better with how we want to be perceived. Its still us, but a "better version" than the real us. Its the "us" we think people want to see. So transparency definitely gets a little lost there... And then the next point happens:

- We don't even know who we really are anymore.

Keep that persona long enough and you'll start believing it. Who is your persona? How does it differ from the REAL you? Do you know for sure who the real you even is? Here is the tricky part- by developing a persona you are pleasing other people, but you will never be truly happy unless you are yourself. So how do you manage that? Do you choose to please other people or to be truly happy? Its a hard one. Its easy to pick happiness in theory, but when we get so caught up fighting for acceptance, its not exactly easy to let that persona go. There was a time in my life when I wasn't quite sure what I believed in or where I wanted my life to go. I created so many personas, I had personas for my personas. Different people brought up different personas, so did different environments. I got completely lost trying to play all these different parts. Its interesting how being around toxic people can distort the image of what we want our lives to look like.

As the saying goes; "show me your friends and i'll show you your future". Surround yourself with good people. You don't need a lot of those, just a few so that you have a foundation to build on. There is another quote from John Lennon that says "Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it'll always get you the right ones". Choose people who are going the same direction you want to go in. People who will love you even without your 'persona'. People who will call you out when that 'persona' attempts to make an appearance. They will love you and they will protect you from yourself. If you don't have anyone like that (I didn't for 25 years), then my advice is- first BECOME the person you want to find. You might get hurt, but stay true to it. I never had anybody I could really trust until I started taking the steps and making myself that somebody someone could trust. I had all the "friends" in the world and yet I had no friends at all. The popular girl who had nobody. See- thats probably something you didn't know about me. Strength or weakness? My Strength made me weak, in other words- my lack of an ability to show weakness made me weak.

There is power in knowing you're weak. There is freedom in being true to yourself- in being honest and transparent. "The truth shall set you free". Eventually. First you may encounter all sorts of heartbreak. But when you find that friend, or that partner.. then you will have found love. And perfect love casts out all fear. Fear of being yourself. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of not appearing weak. Fear that builds personas. Love will cast out all fear. Love will cast out all personas.

So why are honesty and transparency the best policies then? 

-It makes us more human, more relatable. It becomes easier to find what you are looking for once you become what you are looking for. Be the person you want to meet.

-Its makes our lives easier long term. It gets rid of any potential future trouble. Truth is freedom. The truth shall set you free.

-It enables us to build on a foundation. Madoff was Living a lie. When asked how it felt to be in prison, he replied saying that real prison was living a lie.

Lets aways remember to stay honest and transparent and to show more grace. Grace is true strength.