Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Being free of consequences and hiding in the cloak of anonymity, people tend to show their true colors because they have nothing to lose. And this can go both ways. People can be cruel, and people can also be altruistic.
This got me thinking about two things. One, we spend a lot of time behind ‘digital masks’, like our phones and computers. How easy it to leave a mean comment on YouTube or Instagram? Some of the things people say are so cruel and it baffles me that people actually take precious time out of their day to watch content they are just going to criticize anyway. Obviously, people who are hurting, hurt other people. But would they say some of the things they say online to someone’s face? Probably not most of the time. Yet that cruelty brews in their heart.
Second, this got me thinking about integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. It’s being sincere, truthful, fair and honest, even when it doesn’t benefit us. It’s standing up and telling the truth no matter how hard it is. This is much harder to do because most of the time, we aren’t hiding behind a mask. It’s choosing courage over comfort and choosing to do what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. And it’s getting up every day and intentionally practicing our values rather than just professing them.
Throughout most of my life, I have felt proud of my integrity. But when I look at this definition of it, I realize how much of it I have lacked. I have chosen to not tell people the truth because I’ve worried about hurting their feelings or offending them. But the reality is, I want the people in my life to know that they can count on me to tell the unpleasant truth because I love them. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s what I want to do.
So how do you do it? You have to be mindful of when you are avoiding being honest and stand up and be honest anyway. Then sit with the discomfort of having done that. It’s scary, but I promise you, it gets easier every time.
I’ve noticed two things happen in my life since making this change. One, I feel more at peace and I don’t have as many regrets thinking I should have said this or that. Two, when I’ve been brutally honest with others, it has actually been welcomed and they were grateful that I was willing to speak the truth when no one else was.
So, who are you behind the mask? Do you live with integrity and truth? Are there people in your life who need you to step up and tell the truth, even if it’s unpleasant?