Honesty is About More Than Your Opinions: The Three Levels of Radical Honesty

Photo by  Pawel Biernacki

The idea of being honest is often thought of as simply sharing our opinions about stuff. I like this politician, you like that politician. I think those clothes are great, you think those clothes are ugly. The great majority of relationship conflicts are battles about opinions, two people trying to convince each other about the rightness of their position. 

But honesty includes a lot more than merely sharing your opinions and interpretations of the world. 

In the book, Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton provides three levels of truth telling that broaden how we think about honesty. In doing so, we open up opportunities to tell the truth, share who we are, and experience the freedom of having nothing to hide. 

Level 1: Revealing the Facts

The first level is about revealing the facts of what you've done and clearing up lies from the past. Here you tell your parents what you've done, tell your partner when you've cheated, and your friends when you've lied. You're confronting and undoing the image you've been selling to everyone about yourself. Not everyone is up for this challenge but eventually you've said everything there needs to be said. A sense of relief and freedom ensues. 

Level 2: Honesty About Current Thoughts and Feelings

The second level is honesty about current thoughts and feelings. You tell the truth about how you feel when you feel it and revel your secret petty judgments. This level confronts your learned habit of manipulating, strategizing, and having secret plans. This is challenging work and we can all benefit from practicing this with a group. At this level, the work is never done, because the truth is always changing moment by moment. 

Level 3: Exposing the Fiction

The third level of honesty is about demythologizing yourself. It's about admitting you don't really know who you are and that you developed your act in order to not appear lost. It's a broader level of truth-telling that exposes the whole game. 

You start this process by acknowledging being a secret hero in your mind, praising yourself openly rather than trying to manipulate praise for yourself through others, and bragging about the things you pretend you don't care about. To work your way through this level you have to admit all this and go through the feelings that come up. There's no way around it. If you haven't ever really embarrassed yourself, then your not working at this level and you probably know very little about real transformation. 

There Are No Levels

In reality, there are no levels. Its important to stay that so we don’t get hung up on them. Rather, I hope the levels are helpful fictions of the mind to help clarify and deepen your own experience and lead to new experimentation in your own life. Even though Level 3 is not better or worse than level 1, it does seem to require broader awareness and self knowledge.

You’re More Courageous Than You Think

Sometimes. And sometimes you’re not. But without telling the truth at each level and feeling through whatever feelings and sensations come up, you’ll hardly know who you are, hardly know the kind of relief that comes from exiting the jail of the mind, if only for a moment. 

John Rosania