Trust and Radical Honesty

The July, 2007 issue of Esquire (not yet online as of this date) has a story called “I Think You’re Fat,” by A. J. Jacobs. It asks—and answers—the age-old question, what do you say when your wife asks you if this dress makes her look fat?

And that’s just for openers.

It describes writer Jacobs’ encounters with a movement called Radical Honesty; actually, with its founder Brad Blanton. And it’s a trip.

Trust Matters readers know I’ve written about honesty and lying before (most recently with Andrea Howe in Truth, Lies and Unicorns.)

But Blanton takes it to another level. Higher? Well, certainly a different level.

Blanton urges—and lives by—a very simple rule. Flat-out, no holds-barred, absolute, unquestioned honesty. About everything. Period. Open mouth, exit thought. No excuses, no caveats, no handholding, no cover-ups, no being nice. Just truth.

Author Jacobs confesses a white lie he told someone to avoid hurting that person. Blanton’s take on it: “Your lie is not useful to him. It’s simply avoiding responsibility. That’s okay. But don’t bullshit yourself about it being kind.”

Blanton’s got his own site, books and programs. He’s ex-Esalen, about 60, and a gruff hedonist, among other things. Easy to be put off by, but hard not to like. Here are some of his own words:

The heart of the message of Radical Honesty is that we can come to recognize each other as beings in common. We do this by being honest and by demanding honesty from others. This is the fundamental faith of both Radical Honesty and it’s corollary religion, Futilitarianism…Futilitarianism is about the futility of any belief whatsoever…

…beings who relate as beings, one to another, can work out the problems that come from having minds and personalities and cultural and religious and traditional differences, since those differences are all bullshit anyway! We can change how we live together by acknowledging the being we are, (nothing mysterious or mystical—just the sensate being in the body), as the universal context in which the mind occurs. We recognize each other as alike. One pathetic, mind-controlled, culturally conditioned pitiful sonofabitch, anywhere in the world, looks just about like another. Underneath all that confusing and alienating bullshit we are beings in common.

Who I am, is a present-tense, noticing being, and the idea of me—my case history and culture and values and beliefs—is secondary to my fundamental identity as a noticing, present-tense being. I can see, at the same time, that this is true for everyone else. I relate to everyone else as equals in this way. I relate to these fellow beings by being true to my own experience. This being-to-being relatedness is what allows me to make compassionate, collective decisions with my fellow cripples—I mean human beings.

Think you can justify not telling your spouse something? The white lie to your subordinate? The truth about your attraction to your office-mate?
Go ahead, test it. Check out Blanton.

You may not agree with him, but you’ll have a helluva hard time justifying why you don’t.