Ken Solin gives his personal perspective on men and honesty.
The Good Men Project recently asked the question: How important is “telling the truth” to your sense of what it means to be a “good” man? 80% of respondents answered “very important,” a fact that made me happy. If this were baseball, batting .800 would be considered stratospheric. But that still leaves the 20% who don’t embrace truth as a man’s most defining quality. These guys are batting .200—which doesn’t qualify them to play in the majors, or even the minors, as men.
If one of out five men may or may not be telling the truth at any given time when talking with friends, business colleagues, wives, girlfriends, or family — that makes them a risky bet in terms of whether or not they can be trusted to be honest. And since trust is the cornerstone of all relationships, where does that leave the people in these guys’ lives?
I’d like to give an example from a men’s group I run, where telling the truth has been our gold standard and bottom line since our first meeting.
A serial cheater suggested one evening that he cheats on his wife because sex with her had become boring. He didn’t get a pass. When pushed to tell his authentic truth, he admitted that he’d never trusted his wife, and when pushed further, added that he’d never been emotionally intimate with her either. Lack of trust and emotional intimacy was his truth, not boredom. While he was certainly free to continue his extra-marital behavior, he wasn’t free—at least within the group—to ignore his truth.
Dogen, a Japanese Zen Master, wrote about truth, succinctly, “If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”
I believe that every man—including the .200 hitter who says he doesn’t consider honesty very important to his manhood—knows his truth in his heart, but not every man always has the courage to tell it and face the consequences. It’s all about intention. I believe that our intentions define us because they are the rationale for our behavior as men. If a man’s intention is to be honest, he will be. It’s that simple. The .800 sluggers do have that intention, awareness, and courage and I feel we have a responsibility to our brothers who struggle to bat .200 to help them see that honesty in becoming better men is, in fact, “very important”.
Thinking about the results of this survey prompted me to examine my own batting average. I enjoy a solid reputation for honesty with my friends, but wanted to find out how important this quality was to my wife. Even though we’re in our sixties and have been around the relationship block a few times, we’ve only been married four years, and I wasn’t completely sure what she’d say. So, trying not to put words in her mouth, I came at the question indirectly: “What attracted you to me when we first met and what is it that you still find attractive?”
After thinking a moment, she said, “Integrity.” Although she’s a writer, she’s also an editor, and sometimes her responses are a bit short and sweet. So I prodded her to elaborate. “You’re always honest and tell the truth as you see it, no matter what the consequences,” she added. A grand-slam homer over the right field wall at Fenway Park—and exactly the kind of validation I was hoping for. I was proud of myself, and prouder still to be married to such a smart, cool-headed woman. In that moment I realized that my wife really “gets” me in terms of the man I try to be.
In candor, I admit that telling a small lie to my wife—and to my customers when I owned a financial-services company, raising mezzanine capital for high-tech companies and wineries—sometimes has been tempting. I’ve always resisted, though, because once you stretch the truth, the lie takes on a life of its own. You become its slave, having to make up more and more lies and getting farther and farther from the truth. There’s no worse feeling than not being able to stand in your truth and look someone directly in the eye without flinching.
By telling my truth here, I realize that I risk offending some men, particularly those who choose to bat .200. I call them like I see them, though. Men, who make telling the truth their priority deserve to be honored and to feel good about their manhood. I celebrate them for their adherence to truthful intention. Those who don’t might consider remedial batting practice, rethinking the importance of truthfulness as a “very important” aspect of their manhood. “Somewhat important” isn’t even bush league. Maybe it’s time to step up your game.