If a respected mentor told you that full transparency between you and others would dramatically improve your life, while also healing our hurting world, would you have the courage to open yourself to new levels of transparency between yourself and others?
The Power of Transparency
Although full transparency has the power to improve all of our lives and elevate our world, it’s a subtle power we can’t see or grasp and thus often fail to understand or use. Yet, full exposure has the ability to solve all of our problems by magically healing our relationships, our society, and our politics and world.
I first learned about the importance and power of the truth when I was part of a small group being mentored by a Hawaiian woman not much older than myself on the ancient art of Ho’oponopono, a system devised “to set things right” whenever they had gone off track. It’s a system that Robert Lewis Stevenson described as the most effective form of conflict resolution he had ever witnessed; yet, it was later banned by missionaries in the role of spiritual leaders who failed to grasp its virtues or value.
My teacher of this art, Lynette K. Paglinawan, was a student of Mary Kawena Pukui, who as an expert on this powerful Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness helped to bring it back into the open in the 1950s.
I was in my early 30s when I was blessed to witness Ms. Paglinawan describe the way a wise elder leader (or Kupuna) was able to tease the full truth out of the participants of a Ho’oponopo gathering who had become so entangled in their deceptions with each other that their relationships had been critically shattered.
The Power of Truth
The key to helping them untangle their mess and be able to again feel close to one another was to require that they each share their full truth (even if it took them a day or more to both access and reveal it). These deceptions included all of the ‘white’ lies and subtle shadows of judgment they had tucked into their hearts and heads and were often even hiding from themselves.
Healing could only begin when the first transgressors understood that the goal was not to defend themselves by hiding their transgressions or blaming others for the problems they had created, but to face and admit to the truth of what they had done. As soon as this understanding was achieved, the initial transgressors were asked to put their full truths on the table for all to see.
Whenever their admissions were followed by sincere apologies and a request for forgiveness, it was incumbent on those transgressed against to forgive. If they chose, instead, to nurse a grudge, they became the new transgressors who were then helped by the Kupuna to admit to their own lack of clarity and the role they were playing in perpetuating the problem. Once these people were able to see their part and surrender their grudges, the group could move toward full healing.
When everyone’s transgressions were owned and willingly exposed, the tensions between all parties were broken; the “hala” or mess between them had been cleared away; and they felt relief and a new freedom to feel and be close again.
This new level of transparency, safety, comfort, and closeness paved the way for renewed friendships and partnerships. The setting was cleared for their families and society to resume functioning in harmony again.
Teaching Transparency and Truth
A few years after learning about Ho’oponopono, I wove its wisdom into my parenting classes and added a chapter to my Parachutes for Parents book, which I titled “Clearing”. In this chapter, I showed parents and teachers how to use the model of the Kapunas to coax children to tell their full truths in order to untangle and clear their relationships with their siblings, their friends, and their families.
Yet, as much as my understanding of Ho’oponopono in my thirties taught me the importance of raw honesty, it wasn’t until twenty years later when I began to swim with dolphins and whales in the wild that I understood the value of full transparency at an even deeper level.
This insight hit me one day while playing with a group of spinner dolphins off the shores of my Hawai’i home. After an hour, the dolphins were not even close to running out of their enthusiasm for joy or their love of play. But I was getting tired and cold, and although I yearned to swim to shore and get warm, I didn’t want to appear ungrateful for this blessing by leaving.
The moment this thought crossed my mind, the happy chatter of the dolphins unexpectedly stopped as if a conductor had brought his thumb and forefinger together to end a score. Their abrupt silence and departure made it clear that the dolphins had overheard my thought, and I felt embarrassed that I had failed to hide my undeveloped ability to sustain joy at the level the dolphins had attained.
As I strived to understand what had happened, I looked under the water to see where the dolphins had gone, but the only thing visible to me was miles of glassy water stretching out for as far as I could see. There were no walls or doors to hide behind; just miles of open blue water without barriers, not even a barrier between our minds.
Transparency in Relationships
Although this created a pinnacle moment for me on the power of transparency, it took me ten more years to fully grasp the importance of the difference between this new reality and the shadowy one I had grown used to experiencing in my own human society. This new reality included a seamlessly transparent and fluid understanding between beings, one without any barriers or secrets between them…just transparency and the raw, unfettered truth.
When I realized the dolphins and I were working off of the same information, I also realized it eliminated all opportunity for deception or the need for mistrust. I laughed aloud with the joy of the freedom it offered. I then made a vow to behave in my own human society as if I lived in an equally transparent world, one that assumed others could read my mind and know the full truth of all that was in my heart.
To accomplish this, I voluntarily told the truth, even when I wanted to hide things in order not to embarrass myself, hurt someone’s feelings, or damage my relationships with others. This decision resulted in my cleaning up my thoughts in order to avoid a need to hide them. I laughed again at how simple it was to do this is in contrast to the trouble we take to hide our truths.
Over time, I found that doing this, whether or not others had joined me, resulted in my having cleaner, less complicated relationships as a result of more rapidly releasing quick judgments and avoiding the scent of gossip on my tongue. This freeing decision enabled me to feel closer to others and them to me. There were simply less shadows between us that might lead to misunderstandings and hurt or problems that would, in time, need to be untangled and cleared.
I also began to realize as I paid closer attention to the kinds of enormous problems humanity creates for itself that most of them have been caused by large gaps in transparency in our homes, our schools, and in our adult world, including our politics and various forms of leadership.
This realization reminded me of the profundity of the words of the late psychiatrist, Dr. David Viscott,
Our mental health and mental illness lie along a continuum parallel to our levels of honesty and dishonesty.
In short, the more honest we are, the more mentally healthy we are able to be as individuals and as a society. Likewise, the more dishonest we are, the more mentally ill we become as individuals and as a society.
Dedicated to Transparency and Truth
In the midst of these “crazy” times that reflect how far from our own truth and mental health we have drifted, it seems that a dedication to honesty at a level that reaches new heights in transparency offers us our only path to peace. And, it begins with each of us.
So, how about you? Are you intrigued with what your personal life would look like if you opened yourself to new standards of transparency? Are you interested in what might happen to our society and world if we started a fad of telling the truth and keeping it real?
I know I am. In fact, as I write this, I’m dedicating myself to even higher levels of transparency and telling the truth to myself and others.