Words for 2020: Honest

Honest. What a challenging word to write about, especially in this tense political climate. We could talk about this word from so many angles, but I want to settle on just one. I want to talk about honesty in terms of lack of image management. In other words, “what you see is what you get.”

I listen to Francesca Batestelli’s song “If We’re Honest” over and over. Her lyrics challenge me and have become a marching song for me—something I want to incorporate into my personal mission statement. She writes:  

I’m a mess and so are you

We’ve build walls nobody can get through

Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine

‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides

And mercy’s waiting on the other side

If we’re honest

If we’re honest

Francesca Battistelli – If We’re Honest (Live)
Licensed to YouTube by PEDL, Capitol CMG Publishing, Warner Chappell, EMI Music Publishing, and 4 Music Rights Societies

Bring your brokenness—what a concept! I find that easier said than done.

We all struggle to see, let alone tell someone else, about our broken places. But we all have them, don’t we?

I once had a conversation with a woman at a retreat that still rings in my head. She mentioned that she struggles to let people see her not-so-perfect places because she loves God and feels that if she appears less than perfect, her God appears the same way.

She said so well exactly what I’ve felt. I don’t want to dishonor God down by admitting that I have hard things in my life. Somehow I convinced myself that if I love God, my life should look perfect. Eek!

And then when life unraveled, as it always does, I faced a choice. I could either keep working on image management (spin in political terms), or I could just admit to myself, others, and to God that I felt broken.

I tried pushing everything inside and ended up sinking into depression.

Then I tried practicing honesty.

I started by asking myself, “How do I feel—really—about what is going on in my life?” NOT “How do I think I SHOULD feel about what is going on in my life?” Big difference in those two questions.

Then, I learned to talk to God about how I really feel and ask for His help. I model my words after ones I read in the Bible, including these from Lamentations 3: 1-3 (NLT):

I am the one who has seen the afflictions
    that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger.
He has led me into darkness,
    shutting out all light.
He has turned his hand against me
    again and again, all day long.

Lamentations 3:1-3, NLT

Wow! Pretty raw and real.

Finally, I keep working on talking honestly to other people who care about me. Interesting that for me saying out loud to another person, “I struggle with ____________” takes the most courage.

I can talk truth with myself and with God, but talking truth with another person still gives me pause. So much could go wrong.

I could become the object of the rumor mill.

I could suffer rejection from friends who just don’t understand or have the capacity to care.

I could lose my status in the eyes of others, particularly Christians, as a “together” person.

Lots to lose.

But also lots to gain.

John Stott, one of my favorite theologians, said it this way:

We need to buckle on ourselves the belt of truth, transparent openness and honesty and integrity. The very first piece of the Christians’ armor, in spiritual health as in mental health—honesty about oneself—is indispensable, and if we pretend to be other than we are, we are simply asking for trouble.

Sermon at All Soul’s Church in London on Sun 23 Mar 1975.

Oh, yes! When I practice honesty well, both my mental health and my spiritual health prosper. When I don’t practice it well, I turn inward and begin to resemble an imploding building.

Honest. A word I want to include in my personal mission statement. How about you?

Your Turn

Contact me with your thoughts at: I’ll publish an end-of-the-month blog with reader responses.

I would love to learn from some of you about how you’ve incorporated or struggled to incorporate honesty into your relationships. I realize that not everyone loves to write (!) so feel free to record a short video on your phone if that works better. No pressure!

Try these prompts if you feel so inclined:

*Do you remember a specific moment when a friend spoke honestly about a struggle? What happened to your friendship as a result?

*Why do we who love God feel as if we have to manage our image in order to manage His image?


Our friend, Stephen Maret, a college professor of Psychology recommended a podcast that I have come to really appreciate. In the four sessions I’ve listened to, therapist Adam Young has talked with guests who learned to tell their honest stories of trauma, particularly childhood trauma. These middle-aged men and women have found the courage to revisit their younger selves with an honest look,  and they have found such joy and freedom. So worth a listen!

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  • Linda W.
    February 10, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    I emailed my response!
    Great post, Afton. I hear you on the struggle to be honest. As you mentioned, it takes a lot of courage. I often think I have to do certain things as a believer because doing so shows faith in God. (Like stating “I’m more than a conqueror” instead of admitting where I am–fearful.

    • afton
      February 10, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      Oh, yes! I agree. And thanks so much for your email!!