Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

Paid episode

The full episode is only available to paid subscribers of Geeky Stoics

If I'm Being Honest With You

The Matrix and our delicate reputation for truth

We love a straight shooter, don’t we? Especially in politics. There is so much lying, smiling through the teeth, and obfuscation, that when a politician comes along and says “I’ll tell it to you straight,” people’s ears perk up. Some of us have straight-talkers in our family or friend circles. Their candor can sometimes aggravate us, but I’ve always felt like when your back is against the wall and the truth feels as dodgy as Peter Pan’s rogue shadow, you can count on the no-bullshit confidants to help you see clearly.

These friends and advisors are important to have in your life. There’s a caveat though. I was reminded of this by a scene in The Matrix (1999) where the villain, Agent Smith, has Morpheus chained up in interrogation and is trying to get information out of him. Smith leans in, “I’m going to be honest with you,” he says before launching into a tirade of disgust and paranoia about his existence in the Matrix.

Do we take Agent Smith as an honest person? When he removes the glasses and has to verbalize his intent to be honest, do we then take those words with fewer grains of salt? I certainly don’t. We take Smith for a liar. He’s a villain. He’ll say or do anything to achieve his objectives.

If you’re an honest person who tells others the truth, be that person. When you are, you don’t have to preface your statements with “Well man, if I’m being honest….”

Marcus Aurelius wrote about this in his journal, which is notable because you’re talking about the ruler of an empire venting about the advisors and “allies” in his court. There were lots of people giving him advice and attempting to sway the Roman emperor.

He says of these people and the qualifications of their speech,

“The despicable phoniness of people who say, “Listen, I’m going to level with you here.” What does that mean? It shouldn’t even need to be said. It should be obvious—written in block letters on your forehead. It should be audible in your voice, visible in your eyes, like a lover who looks into your face and takes in the whole story at a glance. A straightforward, honest person should be like someone who stinks: when you’re in the same room with him, you know it. But false straightforwardness is like a knife in the back. False friendship is the worst. Avoid it at all costs. If you’re honest and straightforward and mean well, it should show in your eyes. It should be unmistakable.”

Tell the truth, all the time. Be the kind of person where people know you’re not giving them a false impression or stroking their ego. You can always balance delicacy and respect with honesty. This is not a call to tell your spouse, “Yeah you DO look like of fat in that shirt”. This is a broad challenge to strive for sincerity, and that can still be achieved with gentleness. Aim for it.

Remember: “If you’re honest and straightforward and mean well, it should show in your eyes. It should be unmistakable.”

Do good things this week, my friends.

Oh! And in case you missed it, we have a new video out on YouTube digging into the moral ethics of Star Wars: The Acolyte. It’s a great one!

This post is for paid subscribers

Geeky Stoics
Geeky Stoics
Your favorite stories are part of your real life. Star Wars. The Lord of the Rings. Marvel. Batman. Are you listening to what they’re trying to tell you? Geeky Stoics is all about Stoicism, Philosophy, and Wisdom found in Pop Culture.