Thanksgiving, and David Whyte On Honesty

On this Thanksgiving morning, I am feeling both grateful and troubled. Grateful for the many gifts and graces that fill my personal life; troubled for the state of the world we share. I’ve often been at a loss for words these last few weeks. Watching the news has alternately filled me with anger, despair, and righteousness – emotions so strong that I’ve been afraid to speak for fear of my own intemperance.

As is so often the case, this morning I sought insight and solace from another person’s words, and am so thankful to have come upon the following from David Whyte, who manages to tease out extraordinary meaning from ordinary words. In this national moment of daily accusations and revelations, in thinking especially of what it means that so many people have been trying to stand in the painful truth about their experiences with those whose power has so often granted immunity, these words have offered me insight. And so I share them with you, and hope you find something in them as well.



is reached through the doorway of grief and loss. Where we cannot go in our mind, our memory, or our body is where we cannot be straight with another, with the world, or with our self. The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties: all of us are afraid of loss, in all its forms, all of us, at times, are haunted or overwhelmed by the possibility of a disappearance, and all of us therefore, are one short step away from dishonesty. Every human being dwells intimately close to a door of revelation they are afraid to pass through. Honesty lies in understanding our close and necessary relationship with not wanting to hear the truth.

The ability to speak the truth is as much the ability to describe what it is like to stand in trepidation at this door, as it is to actually go through it and become that beautifully honest spiritual warrior, equal to all circumstances, we would like to become. Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power over life or another or even the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence, where we acknowledge how powerless we feel, how little we actually know, how afraid we are of not knowing and how astonished we are by the generous measure of grief that is conferred upon even the most average life.

Honesty is grounded in humility and indeed in humiliation, and in admitting exactly where we are powerless. Honesty is not found in revealing the truth, but in understanding how deeply afraid of it we are. To become honest is in effect to become fully and robustly incarnated into powerlessness. Honesty allows us to live with not knowing. We do not know the full story, we do not know where we are in the story; we do not know who is at fault or who will carry the blame in the end. Honesty is not a weapon to keep loss and heartbreak at bay, honesty is the outer diagnostic of our ability to come to ground in reality, the hardest attainable ground of all, the place where we actually dwell, the living, breathing frontier where there is no realistic choice between gain or loss.”
–David Whyte, ‘HONESTY’ Excerpted From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words© 2015 David Whyte and Many Rivers Press