Being a lover of honesty and of powerful literary quotes, I could not resist reflecting upon this one extract from The Brothers Karamazov:
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
I have not read this classic of Russian literature yet, but it is on my ever growing list and of course, one of my resolutions for 2017 is to read more. I have already talked about my hopes for the coming year in another post, and today, because the new year is upon us and synonymous with renewal and new beginnings, or at least because it should be, I would like to try and think about the relationship between self-honesty and self-recovery.
This past year, I have had to face myself a number of times: it was a question of moving on, of improving and of refusing to delude myself. It was hard. It was truly nerve-racking to just sit by myself and accept that I was not honest; to find the truth, embrace it and build on it instead of against it. When my girlfriend left me, I wanted to stay friends right away; I thought I was strong enough for it and that I was not actually expecting for her to come back to me. Obviously, that was a big fat lie, and because of it, I could not recover from my heartache and started acting somewhat erratically. Then, I accepted what I did not want to see. I opened my eyes at last and saw the extent of what was happening to me – only then did I begin to heal. Only then did I start respecting myself again. Only then did I feel again. And only then could I realize that I was doing well on my own, even if I still miss her and still want to be her close, perhaps her best friend. And I am confident it might not take as long as I think before we can talk. But that is not for me to decide, I must let time do its magic.
The problem that poses itself when you try not to lie to yourself, however, is that it is terribly painful. First, it means you must accept to face yourself and to find yourself alone with your soul. It means you cannot seek solutions outside yourself, or in a lover, or in relationships and sweet nothings. It is a “me, myself, and I” sort of situation. It is lonely. It is hurtful. It is sickening and might make you feel a little mad until the skies clear. Second, it means that if you are asking for advice from friends and family, you must be ready to listen to what they have to say. And I mean really listen, not hear with one ear and then seclude yourself into your own fantasy world right after. If you do so, what will happen next? You will resent them, think they do not understand you or that they are against you. You will reject them, perhaps blame and hate them. But they don’t. They are trying to help. They give you their honest opinion but will let you make your own decisions because they believe in you. But really, if they think you are deluding yourself, they’ll hope you open your eyes before it is too late. Before you’ve passed the point of no return. The last thing will be sorting everything out. What you truly want, what you truly feel, what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable or not. What you are willing to wait for and what you are not ready to do. And many, many more things. Until finally, you can stand on your own two feet and say: yes, this is real. This is not an illusion I have created for myself.
That day, you’ll be better. And being honest with yourself does not mean you cannot dream, or imagine things. Honesty is not synonymous with dullness and lack of creativity, but it does come with strength and courage; it means letting go of fears; it is a way to make yourself come to life again and to find your own paths towards happiness.