Being honest with yourself will spark progress and reform

Perhaps you lied to your professor for why you skipped class, or your friend for which side of a political issue you support, or yourself when you said you wanted to have sex 
with him.

Maybe you told your boyfriend you changed and want a second chance. Perhaps you said “it isn’t a big deal.”

All of us lie everyday. In the big lies and the little fibs, we recreate reality in our quest for perfection. We spend precious time and energy managing perception and creating carefully edited versions of ourselves to show to the world. Social expectations tell us that imperfection is synonymous with inadequacy, so we fight back with the lies to hide our shame.

As we focus on ourselves and our perfectly manufactured world, we box out reality and misconceive truth. We are incapable of changing things around us because we fight against the notion that we may be 
the problem.

As I reflect on my experience at The University of Alabama and my interactions with others, I am ashamed that I wasn’t courageous enough to tell the truth. Every mistake points back to a silent whisper or shouted sentiment where I took the cowardly path. Far too many times, the act of lying became so natural I no longer could tell when I was doing it.

In the privileged UA political bubble of bickering for control, social change strategies resemble a never-ending feud – one in which both sides try to cripple the other. Each time they are vanquished by their foes, they aim for vengeance and retribution against their enemies. Any victory is temporary. In the end, everyone is weakened. When people engage in adversarial, antagonistic battles, they are doing little to solve our problems.

You see, real change isn’t about the political noise that clutters our mind. 
Real change comes from people focusing on being powerful forces of good despite the political landscape of the moment. The only way to get there is to be honest.

Somewhere along my time on this campus, I decided I was going to try to be painfully honest with every situation. I would no longer hide my struggles and protect myself from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection. Every time I had the urge to lie about something, I asked myself why.

Why was I acting like I had anything to do with integrating campus? I wanted my risk to be worth it and I wanted to feel special. White guilt is real and in continuing the cycle of unearned accolades to the privileged class, I only continued to oppress people I wanted so desperately 
to support.

Shame is universal and it is a waste of emotional capacity. Do not let shame dominate your life choices. One day you will wake up and realize you are living someone else’s life. Quite frankly, our community depends on you waking up now.

Shadowed by our past, it is now the will and work of the people of Alabama that propels our community forward. There are people all around us capitalizing on the need for human connectivity and working to create authentic communities that will be the catalysts for progress and ignite the flame of reform. These people can only do that because they are not consumed with hiding their shame and living in lies. They are being honest with themselves, the people around them and the circumstances in which we all live.

Be too brave to lie.

Caroline Bechtel founded Students for Open Doors and Ethical Leadership.

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