Extreme Makeover: Honesty Edition

The other night at my friend Sara’s house, we were discussing swim suits and the fact that, while I now own one, I am not necessarily keen on the idea of wearing it in public places.¬† Sara’s daughter Abby, a precocious first-grader, piped in to ask, “Jen, why do you hate your body?”

The question stopped me short — and I experienced the (rare for me) sensation of speechlessness.¬† I looked to Sara for help, and Sara just shrugged as if to¬†say, “Well, she’s a¬†perceptive kid, whadda ya want me to do about it?”

What resulted was a conversation between Abby, Sara and I about choices. ¬†The ones we carelessly make and live to regret, the ones we make that have incremental impacts we don’t think about until it would take a herculean effort to reverse them. ¬†A bit heavy, you might think, for a kid Abby’s age, but she tracked on all of it.

And it brought home to me one of the things I have been learning, another “late bloomer aha”: ¬†the truth is a powerful thing.¬† I’ve written before about my attempts to be more honest and how that has impacted me and my life.¬† But what I’ve been thinking about since my chat with Abby is how, when we make the effort to be truthful, it can make a huge impact on others as well.

When we cover up, sugar coat, or stay silent it diminishes the other people we are in relationship with.¬† It is as if we, like the Jack Nicholson character in “A Few Good Men”, are saying to them: “The truth?¬† You can’t handle the truth!”¬† Sounds pretty¬†condescending when put that way, but isn’t that what we are doing when we decide it is in someone else’ best interest to fudge a little? or a lot?¬† And when it comes to the children in my life, like Abby, I want to think carefully about the messages I send and example I set for them.¬† So I told her the painful truth:¬† I don’t hate my body.¬†I love my body, but I am embarrassed by what poor care I have taken of it.¬† Abby could handle it.

The other night, I was talking with Sue Stork, and repeating a story.¬† She was surprised by something I recounted saying to another friend, and said, “Good for you for being honest.¬† But really, this whole journey you’ve been on has been about being honest — especially with yourself, but also with others.¬† This part of your life could be titled: Extreme Makeover: Honesty Edition”.¬† Those who lived with me throughout my childhood would agree that I am an unlikely ambassador for truthfulness (they know I can tell some whoppers).¬† However, like a zealous convert, I urge everyone to make the committment to be more honest in daily life.¬† It is an important way to communicate your love, honor and respect for the people in your life.