Paradoxical Commandement #5
Telling a little while lie can be so easy. Most have little significant impact on our lives and remain inconsequential to our experiences. They slip from between our lips quickly, flitting into the world with unmentionable effect. At least, we tell ourselves they do. But, as many of us have discovered, white lies grow, effecting our lives the same way proverbial butterfly wings can cause a hurricane. Paradoxical commandment number five hits close to home for me:
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
Surely you see how I relate to this commandment. My blog title - Being Frank - is more than just a clever use of my name. Rather, it reminds me of the important message contained in commandment five. I began blogging for two reasons - to hone my writing skills (which are better) and to throw my musings out into the world. I learned quickly how vulnerable any of us can feel when offering an opinion to others. They day I received my first negative comments opened my eyes in a huge way (on this post). I kept at it, although with a more fervent awareness of my new vulnerability.
We tell untruths to protect ourselves or others. As children, we learn to avoid consequence; lying helps accomplish this. Our lies have the potential to explode in our face. They also grow. The first lie might be small, but by taking that first step, each successive lie has permission to expand, growing beyond our ability to manage them.
Our actions can also reflect dishonest intentions. Small infractions might seem minor, but can lead us down a dangerous path. My girlfriend during senior year in high school had trouble with calculus. Tutoring didn’t help, so I “helped” during tests. I finished quickly and held onto my paper, waiting for the inevitable shoulder tap. She wrote the questions she didn’t understand on a scrap of paper and slid it under my desk. I filled in the answers and slipped it back to her. I hated it, but did it anyway. My calculus teacher must have wondered why I always looked mad when I turned in my tests.
Getting caught would probably have meant a zero on our tests and maybe a trip to the Assistant Principal. I knew this. It didn’t stop me from elevating my dishonesty, though. Towards the end of the year, a few days before finals, I stopped by the calculus classroom for something after school. I noticed a stack of finals on the teacher’s desk, and since no one else was in the room, I took one and gave it to my girlfriend.
I never looked at it. That helped me feel better. A little.
Few people know that story, as I have kept it close to the vest for fifteen years, but according to commandment five, I should have no problem admitting my failures. Or, at the very least, I should find the strength to admit to them.
Commandment five encourages a daily vigilance towards honesty and frankness. Admitting to past errors helps us heal old wound, but living an honest life prevents new ones. Both are important as we move forwards through life.
Dr. Keith wrote this commandment as a directive to young leaders. While you may not think you play the role of leader in your life, you do. Somewhere, whether in your career, your family, your community, someone looks up to you. Living an honest and frank life builds your credibility. Open yourself up. Let others in. Live the example you want to set.
I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical
Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne
Dyer audio CD in my early twenties. The meaning and message struck me
as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big
kid into a real adult. Later, I discovered the poem was not actually
written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the
wall in her Calcutta orphanage. She cared about its message enough to
use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave
The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission. © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001
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