Making a choice to be honest, with our selves and in our lives and relationships, is crucial to anyone who wants to live a consent-based life, and who also wants this to be possible for the people around them.
Meaningful consent needs to be informed and freely given. Therefore, if you want to be in consent-based relationships with other people, you have to be open and honest, so that they know what it is they are consenting to by being in relationship with you.
If you withhold information, give a false impression, try to protect yourself by sharing half-truths or hiding things that you are worried about sharing, you are limiting the possibility of being in consensual relationships with others. We need to be open about and mindful about sharing things that we know will affect the other person in some way, or could influence things if they were to know about it. Especially when that feels hard to do or risky – that’s the sure sign that this is something that is important to share. Information that could change a person’s position or affect the relationships is exactly the kind of information that is going to be important for them in being able to make an informed choice. Where our honesty feels that it could expose a conflict – we must be willing to walk that path to stay on a course of consent-based life. A hidden conflict doesn’t go away, it just is buried to emerge at a later time. Conflict addressed early on can be navigated with much less risk and potential harm that that which has been buried out of fear and avoidance, to inevitably emerge at a later time.
Being honest with others starts with us being honest with ourselves, which also begins with trusting and caring for ourselves. Listening to our own thoughts and feelings and taking them seriously. Listening to our own bodies. Being open to hearing uncomfortable things from our own selves, about ourselves – things that may fly in the face of how we perceive ourselves or what we think our identities are or should be. We have to be open to hearing all kinds of things from ourselves, taking these things on board, and then be ready to make them known to others where that is relevant and important for those relationships.
First: be honest with ourselves so that we can know ourselves and be in a position to understand our own lived experience and navigate it in a honest way. Second: extend that honestly to those around us, so that our relationships can be grounded in honesty, openness, and transparency, so that those around us know who it is they are in relationships with and on what terms that relationship is based, and that if and when things change we can trust to be told about that.
In life, we don’t always know everything about ourselves in an instant, as things emerge over time or become revealed to us in ways that they weren’t before. We can understand ourselves in one way and then at a future time we may evolve, or more may be revealed to us. Our feelings can change, our needs can change, our awareness can expand. Our understanding can change. This is part of life and the human experience of growth and unfolding, and can be especially true when someone is in a healing process and more is becoming understood by them and visible that they may not have realised before.
The important thing to do alongside this, is to resist being in denial about this or hiding it, but when something becomes known to us, once it is revealed to us and we are aware of it in our conscious mind, not to sit on that awareness for too long. The longer we sit on that conscious awareness, and don’t make it known to others when it affects them or may affect them, that is the period of time in which we are actively limiting or sitting on the opportunity of others to be in consensual relationship with us (and us with them). And surely we want that period of time to be as short as possible, as that time period risks causing trauma to the relationship due to the breach in consensuality.
Living in a consent-based way isn’t easy – it calls us into our own honesty, to openness and to transparency. All things that can be frightening in a world where it is normal to lie and manipulate in relationships, where so much is concealed and hidden, and the idea of showing up in a truly authentic, honest and accountable way is counter-cultural. Where our own patterns of coping mechanisms may get in the way of our own authenticity and being able to express ourselves in an honest way, and require us to heal and address these coping strategies that obstruct consensuality.
But this way is the way in which we can know and be known, where we can be our selves and know others, live as close to the truth and our own truth as possible, to be free and in ‘right relationship’ – it is the most loving and respectful gift we can give to ourselves, each other and the world. Without honesty and openness there can’t be consent.