On the one hand, I value honesty. On the other hand, however, if one is not careful with how one communicates, honesty can lead to others feeling hurt. I’m sure that on many occasions I’ve contributed to unnecessary suffering by being careless with how I express myself. With my autobiography, I hope to minimize such suffering by taking care when I report on my experiences with people who are still alive.
Following is a new section of the latest draft of the Preface that presents my plan in this regard. I would appreciate your feedback.
As I anticipated, by fully sharing who I am openly and honestly, writing this autobiography has been liberating. The more transparent I am in disclosing myself, the easier I overcome fears associated with being honest. The more I bring secrets out of the closet, the less ashamed I am and the more I accept myself.
This transparent self-examination is also a political statement. Our society teaches us to fear being honest, both with others and with ourselves. From an early age, we learn to stop being spontaneous. Rather, we become secretive in order to gain rewards or avoid punishment. At times, withholding our feelings is necessary, but with most people in the modern world, it seems to me, it becomes a counter-productive habit and we even deceive ourselves. Rather than being authentic, many of us worry too much about what others think of us and modify our behavior to shape their reactions. We manipulate others, who manipulate us. We internalize the judgments of others and beat ourselves up with guilt, shame, and harsh judgments. Due to these dynamics, we fail to develop the self-confidence to be real, which undermines our ability to challenge illegitimate authority.
What we gain by being inauthentic is usually not worth the price we pay. There are exceptions, of course, like when we really need a job and our boss won’t accept honesty. But in general, the more integrity we maintain, the better. As a society the same applies. Suppressing authenticity undermines creativity and productivity.
Younger people may be developing a new culture. The openness reflected in the use of social media like Facebook is an encouraging sign. The value of honesty and “deep friendship” has been affirmed in a number of movies and TV shows recently, which is also heartening. One way or another, it seems to me, we need to learn how to nurture compassionate honesty.
This book aims to set an example that encourages others to honestly examine themselves, including their mistakes, and share their conclusions with others, even if only with a few trusted allies. The willingness and the ability to acknowledge mistakes is essential for growth.
Let us learn how to more frequently be real, stop playing games, remove the masks, shine lights into the dark corners, dig deeper for the truth, and follow our thoughts to their logical conclusion. Let us face reality and accept what we cannot change so we can more effectively change what we can change.
Given these convictions, with this autobiography I tried to be open and transparent in reporting on what has been most important to me in my life, without divulging private information about others that was given to me in confidence. In addition, I’ve refrained from identifying individuals by name when I assumed that they would prefer not to be so identified. And I’ve tried to exclude incidental material that, due to held resentments, I was tempted to include in an effort to settle scores.
Discussing instances of conflict or disappointment concerning people who are still alive is a delicate matter. Even if one aims to be fair and accurate, the individuals involved can object to how the writer characterizes the situation or they can resent the matter being made public. I believe in transparency, but on the other hand, I wanted to be sensitive to the feelings of others and at least give them a chance to review and comment on material about them before it goes public, even if I didn’t identify them by name because in some cases some readers can deduce who I’m talking about even when I don’t name them.
So before making this edition available to the general public, I decided to offer a free copy (until the end of August 2014) to those individuals who are discussed in the book and ask their feedback, including whether or not they approve me distributing it more widely in its current form. I will then reflect on that feedback before deciding how to proceed.