Yamas/Is honestly always the best policy?

Since I’m on the topic of the yamas, I realize that I’ve just had an experience about whether being completely honest is always the right thing to do. I got a text from a good friend that she was really upset because she did something really stupid, it was a big mistake. I was surprised, but it unfolded that this big mistake was just that she told the truth to one of her friends. I’m not going to lay out the drama, but the situation as I saw it was, she was honest, and her friend was not ready to hear it. And now, the third party won’t speak to her.

Most of us have been in that position, right? You’re like, do I tell the truth? Despite the repercussions? If they’re not willing or ready to hear the truth, then you’re potentially damaging the relationship. But then, if the relationship is damaged because that person isn’t willing or able to handle the truth, then it’s not a good relationship anyway right? Man it’s tricky business. I once had to tell someone close to me that I didn’t think their boyfriend was right for them. I thought they were settling, I thought it was interfering with her being able to live her life and go after her dreams. And it did not go well. But then ultimately, she ended up seeing it herself and was surprised when after they broke up all her friends said, “Yeah, I never liked him for you.” She couldn’t believe they weren’t honest with her sooner. Well, sometimes there’s consequences for honesty.

So with that, how do we know when to be honest? Well, the sutras have an answer and the answer is always.

2.36 When the principle of truthfulness is fully established, the results of action become certain.

This could mean that when you’re truthful, things will always turn out right, or it could mean that if you intentions and actions are honest, you’ll already know the outcomes. If you read my last post, you might remember 2.34, which sums up why and how you practice all of the yamas. To paraphrase, if you do the opposite of what the yamas are telling you, your suffering and misery will be unlimited. And it applies to all the yamas in all of their forms (directly, indirectly, whether there’s some other force interfering, whether you’re just sitting idly by while someone else acts in opposition to a yama, or whatever the intensity of the infraction). Basically, being even slightly dishonest, or being dishonest by omission, will leading to the same unlimited suffering and harm.

So I remembered the experience I had with this, telling the truth to someone who doesn’t want to hear it and that at first it was rough, it interfered with our relationship, but then ultimately she was grateful because she eventually figured out that I was right. It would’ve been wrong for me to withhold my thoughts, the truth as I saw it, and I knew it. Satya is actually one of the yamas that I’ve never struggled with, sometimes to my detriment. It requires being honest with yourself, about your intentions and beliefs, honest in your words, and honest in your actions. My old teacher used to bring up Satya at the beginning of every class, to remind us to push when we were ready to go further in a posture and to know when it was time to back off. Most people aren’t even honest with themselves about what they’re capable of and what they need. Satya is radical honesty, and I think I’ve wished a few times in the moment that I wouldn’t have just blurted out the truth, but I’ve always been glad that I did (at least eventually). Ultimately it’s the right thing. I told my friend who was struggling in this current case, you didn’t do anything stupid and you didn’t make a mistake. Telling the truth was the absolute right thing to do, and it’s a real shame that this other girl doesn’t see it that way right now but hopefully it won’t be too long before she comes around.


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