Getting to Radical Honesty

Getting to Radical Honesty

A quick 6-minute audio …

Getting to Radical Honesty

Today I heard an interview with a psychotherapist by the name of Dr. Brad Blanton, who is an expert in stress management.  He wrote a book called “Radical Honesty” that explodes the myths and lies by which we live.  “We all lie like hell,” he says.

Blanton believes that relationships require true intimacy, and that true intimacy only exists if we can be radically honest with each other, in a way we weren’t raised to be.  And that it’s not just a matter of always telling the truth, but of telling ALL the truth.  In other words, we mostly lie through omission … avoiding saying what we really think.

He talks about how exhausting it is to live with all the lies, or half-told truths, having to remember what we said to whom.  While he recognizes the price that relationships pay for total honesty, he emphasizes the price the individual pays for the lack of total honesty.

This is pretty heavy stuff and there are lots of ramifications I’m still thinking through about Blanton’s beliefs.  Imagine telling everyone everything you’re thinking!  To make that change requires a level of courage I don’t quite have at the moment, because of the vulnerability it opens us each up to.  But I’ll be digging further to see how the lack of total honesty might be bringing stress to my life, and what I’m willing to change.

In the meantime, thinking about Radical Honesty did lead me to somewhere where we can safely practice it today:  with ourselves.

So let’s pick three places where we can remove some stress and safely build a new solid foundation in our financial lives, by practicing what I’ll call “Radical Financial Honesty.”


Affecting the Emotional Aspect of Money

We have behaviors around money that we know are unhealthy for our financial security … but that we push back into our subconscious minds.  It could be impulse spending because it makes us feel good, especially in these difficult times.  Or repelling money by not charging enough for our services because we don’t feel we deserve it.

Or working such long hours we rarely see our family because we believe that money cures all ills.  Or hiding receipts from our spouse because we don’t want to hear how we can’t afford it these days.  Or spending money we don’t have on our children because we don’t ever want them to go through what we did as kids.

Time for Radical Honesty.  Stop for a moment.  Pick one behavior you know is messing with your finances.  Spend a few minutes thinking about where that behavior came from.  (Whatever it is, you more than likely brought it forward from childhood.)  Where did you first see it?  In a parent?  Or is it an opposite reaction to something you saw or heard as a child?

Whatever it is, be honest with yourself about the damage it’s doing to you and your loved ones.   Decide if it’s something you want to get Radically Honest about and change.  No one needs to know, just you.  And you can change it.

Becoming aware is the powerful key to changing anything.


Affecting the Physical Aspect of Money

When it comes to our money, we know more or less what we owe, but we don’t want to add it up and write it down in one place because the number will probably scare us.

Or maybe we tell everyone that we have a budget and talk about how we live within it, but the truth is that we don’t actually have one.  We just stop spending when we run out of money each month.

Or the bills and statements pile up on the counter, unopened, because we feel out of control.  Reality is so frightening that we don’t even want to know.

Time for Radical Honesty.  Time to take a leap of faith and accept that numbers alone will not kill us.  They’re just numbers.  And in the great majority of cases, we’ve blown them up much worse than they really are.

And if they are bad, the only way to start getting them under control is to know what they are.  If you don’t know the problem, you can’t fix it.  Tear open those envelopes.  Look at those statements.  Add up what you owe.  Figure out what you bring home, exactly.  Look at the gap between what you need each month and what you bring home.  Pick what you can cut back so you can cover expenses, then start addressing debt.

Knowing is infinitely easier than not knowing.


Affecting the Spiritual Aspect of Money

We talk about wanting to save, but we don’t.  We talk about down-scaling our lifestyles so we have a better shot at financial independence, but we put it off until next month.  We talk about building a new business to generate income for our future, but we don’t take action.  We buy products that will help us start something up, and they sit unopened on the shelf … or on our computer hard drives.

Time for Radical Honesty.  Stop and think seriously about what you’re willing for your life to look like today … so it can look the way you want it to in five years.  Envision graphically and in great detail what you want your life to look like 20 or 30 years from now, depending on your age today.   What do you still want to achieve in your life?  Let go of other people’s dreams and aspirations, and focus on your own.  Make a “short list” of two or three things that will put a fire in your belly … to do what you have to for those visions to go from fantasy to reality.

Having a crystal clear personal vision is non-negotiable.

Now that we’ve looked at three possible areas of change, let me know in the comment section below where you think a little Radical Honesty might help you move towards getting your finances under control.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her posts, articles and an upcoming book. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Sharon, I think you’ve made some excellent points here. While I’m not certain about Dr. Blanton’s work with others, your idea of turning radical honesty onto yourself is spot on. That’s really where it has to start, whether it’s about money, relationships, job, bad habits – whatever it is, if you aren’t able to face it, then you’ll never be able to address it. Radical honesty with others? I can just hear that – “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” “Why, yes, dear, it not only makes you look fat, but it shows every bump and bulge. You shouldn’t go out in public like that.” Oy and ouch. 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Lis, he actually promotes that and much more. Says that a relationship that survives full honesty can stand up to anything. I dunno. But I do get that we’ve taken correctness (political and otherwise) to where there is very little vulnerability left. Enter Brené Brown ( ) and you’ll see where I’m going. As for turning it inward, I’m all for it!

      • I wonder if he’s seen the movie “The Invention of Lying?” In it, before lying was “invented,” everyone told the radical, painful and often hurtful truth. I don’t advocate lying, but couching something is softer terms or leaving something truly painful out seems kinder in many instances. I believe the same message can be relayed without resorting to using words that act as blunt force trauma on the receiver. Thanks for the thoughtful post (as all of yours are). 🙂

  • Whoa! I didn’t think there was anything or anywhere left to correct in our money thinking or habits. Thanks Sharon you brought up some points that “got me”. I’d like to take this opportunity to be blatantly honest in hopes of helping someone else out there. We helped our son out every time he got into some sort of jam. The heart wrenching situations made it seem like there was no other choice but to help him. What we learned was this…it crippled him and put us in a situation that nearly crippled us into bankruptcy. Now, I understand why my parents seemed hard, cold and uncaring…they weren’t first of all uncaring they were allowing me to grow up, take responsibility for my own decisions and actions…and they were protecting themselves from financial hardship and heartache.

    • Tough, tough lesson, Carla, but congratulations on learning it. It goes back to putting on your own oxygen mask first …

  • You have some good processes to get a person moving forward with their money picture.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks for your comment, MarVeena. I try to give my readers a path forward so it’s easier to apply what I propose. We all read about so many good ideas; the key is implementing them!

  • Lucy

    omg Sharon, your are a wise person; you bring up and very sensitive issue about personal finance. I really enjoy reading your article, and makes me think into myself to change some behaviour. Your are blessed for this advise. Thanks … and sorry for my english, jejeje

    • Thank you, Lucy. This is a topic few people really dig in to and yet is so critical to our future well-being. My hope is that a reader will make just one change based on something I write about, and see the impact. And, as you know, change brings more change …

  • Carele Belanger

    Great article. This is what I live by: The truth all the time. Saying the truth but also being true to myself by allowing to be myself.

  • Gretchen Pritts

    Sharon wow! What a great post-so true and honest. Looks like I have some work to do. Thanks for sharing what needs to be done.

    • Hope you found one or two things you can take action on, Gretchen. That momentum is what makes it possible to be empowered around money!

  • As always Sharon… you’ve given so much to think about! Radical honesty – especially the part about lying by omission – applies not only to what we don’t say when asked but what we don’t say when reporting. I’m with you… I don’t know about all of that, yet, but to your question on radical honesty with finances. My divorce several years ago forced that hand for me. One change that really helped me was to create a detailed annual budget spread sheet and then track everything I spent monthly in a projection vs actual comparison. It takes time (darn!) but was a huge help as it was so easy before for me to tell myself, “oh well, I won’t spend so much next month.” Doing it this way helped me to really get a handle on how I spent money. I was forced to actually see where and how I wouldn’t spend so much next month or in month 8 to offset an unexpected expense in month 5. It’s similar to how we run a businesses — we have monthly financial statements showing monthly and YTD actuals vs budget, so it can be equally helpful to view our personal finances in the same manner — at least until we get a handle on them.

    • Lisa, the discipline you learned after your divorce is what we should all be taught as teens: to pay attention to our money so it serves us best. BTW, honoring it that way is not something that’s only useful when funds are tight; it’s how wealthy people treat their money as well. They may delegate the task, but “someone’s watching.”

  • You are the speaker of truth Sharon! Total and complete honesty with ourselves is the most freeing thing we can do…and it all begins with choice. In no way do I pretend it is easy however as you point out it is necessary! As far as being blatantly honest with others…well I would argue that our ‘truths’ may not be the same as someone else’s therefore I would find it beneficial to offer my ‘truth’ only if asked! Excellent article as always!:)

    • You’re right, Denny, about one person’s truth being different from another’s. You could substitute the word “opinion” which is even tougher to take, when you realize that what they just said is what they believe and feel, not some third-party external truth. As for being honest with ourselves, the good part is that our beliefs and feelings can change … and no one gets angry or hurt in the process.

  • Terressa Cortez

    Great article. I so believe in being totally honest. Not something that is always easy to do but once done it is as if a weight lifts and you can see clearly. You can be honest with having to be harsh and hurtful. Thank you for all you teach us and share!

    • Terressa, Blanton’s talking about no secrets, no filters, no diluting things so they’re more palatable, no holding back what’s not socially correct. By definition, that means “hurtful.” I think you and I are in the same camp, of recognizing that the more forthcoming we are in relationships that are important, the better. But I bet we both have snarky comments we say to ourselves in our heads that we don’t share out loud, whether with strangers or acquaintances. And some thoughts we wouldn’t share with anyone. Yes? No? I know I do!

  • Brilliant post on why honesty is essential to a healthy financial situation. Avoidance of the truth has a nasty habit of coming back at us at a later date!

    • Those things we avoid have a way of popping back up into our lives, don’t they, Carolyn? It’s easier to go ahead and face them! 😉

  • Wow! Definitely gives me something to think about. You described me in emotional aspect of money. Right now, my husband and I make more than our parents did when we were small. I find myself spending money on my girls to give them what we didn’t – even though they do not need it OR I don’t need to spend it. Even though you didn’t call me out directly, I feel now I need to snap out of it 🙂

    • Mandy, we all brought forward beliefs or memories from our childhood that still affect our behaviors, including those with money. Most are sitting in our subconscious minds, from before age 6 at which point our conscious minds kicked in with the ability to judge and filter. But once we’re aware of them, they’re easy to let go. You may be pulling from something as simple as the memory of a little friend who had more toys than you did, which may have made you feel different, somehow less. Which, of course, you weren’t … it was just economical circumstance. Could be anything as innocent as that …

  • Excellent post, Sharon! “Knowing is infinitely easier than not knowing”…I so agree.

    • Somehow that “not knowing” rears its head eventually anyway, doesn’t it, Sherie? 😉 May as well just deal with it!

  • Sharon G. Cobb

    Great great article! I agree with the doc that true intimacy takes radical honesty and I also agree that most of us do not live in radical honesty. Most people do not want you to be radically honest either! I’ve been told I’m brutal. lol I don’t know about that but I do believe in honesty. Years ago I listened to a speaker who said that we, as parents, teach our children to lie. At first I was offended but as I listened, he made perfect sense. He said, we make them say “I’m sorry” when they are not sorry etc. We really need to revamp this type of teaching. Perhaps we should be teaching children to “think” about why they should be sorry or why they should have responded differently in the situation and take responsibility for their actions even if they aren’t necessarily sorry. I rememeber my son in high school. He rarely got into trouble although he did go to the office a great deal. What kept him out of trouble? Honesty. When asked if he did something and why, he always told the truth. He owned up to what he did and took responsibility for his actions. In doing so, he created respect and it gave those in charge an opportunity to see “things” from the students side without lies and distortions. YES this should be taught in all aspects of life including how to deal with money. 🙂 Great article!

    • Once you start thinking about Blanton’s stance, you realize to what extent we ARE socialized from childhood to not tell the whole truth, Sharon. And your example is perfect. His interview made me want to read his book, although he and I have dramatically different political and social values. (I’m interested in his philosophy, not his politics!) Hopefully I’ll learn other places where I’m fooling myself … and move along the continuum without getting to the extreme.

  • olga hermans

    We owe it to ourselves to be honest; it is an easy thing to do…IF we take time to look into our heart what is really going on. It should be easy, but the distractions of life and trying to please everyine arond us mixes us up on every level of life and that makes it so difficult for us that we don’t want to know what we need to know.especially about our own finances…hope this makes sense 🙂

    • Olga, what you call “distractions of life and trying to please everyone around us” is what so often leads us away from being as honest as we could be … even without being hurtful. It’s a delicate balance … and a very personal one.

  • Jamie

    With my Significant Other I have this gift of being “too honest” what does that mean? I speak what I think, and speak how it is including what I’m thinking during not so good moments. It’s a blessing and curse all at the same time 😉 LOL

    • Jamie, you’re probably attracted someone who can align with your “too honest” way. If Dr. Blanton is correct in his position, and if your relationship can withstand the honesty, you’ll share a level of intimacy (which Blanton does not define as romantic intimacy, but rather human intimacy) that us pussy-footers don’t. So consider it a gift! 😉

  • Fantastic post that left me with several uncomfortable truths to think about. And the comments were also phenomenal – each new one giving you a new opportunity to elaborate on the topic. Great read!

    • Susan, I love the dialog that grows out of these articles. It lets us delve into areas I never thought of as I was writing! BTW, those uncomfortable truths? They’re gentle (and well-timed) wake-up calls that give you alternatives to whatever you’re doing today … 😉

  • Meryl Beck

    I am of the opinion that radical honesty can be hurtful, brutal honesty really can be brutal. Radical honesty with oneself over finances, however, is a different story. I am glad Sharon discussed this important area that involves mindfulness plus accountability.

    • I felt the same way, Meryl, but the interview did make me reassess some things about myself … and to me that kind of learning never stops! And the “side-step” to take it to “radical financial honesty with oneself” seemed like a natural segue!

  • Oh, so well said Sharon! If people were honest with themselves when they bought into those variable loans to buy the houses they knew they could not afford, they would not have to be homeless right now. Lying to ourselves hurts us at so many levels, especially when it comes to financials. I loved reading this, and will gladly share it.

    • That’s a whole other ball of wax, Sherry. The housing debacle was one big “bad money behavior marathon” as people allowed themselves to get caught up in the tide of “if she can, why can’t I?” And reality was never factored in, forget honesty. Thanks for sharing it forward!

  • I always think of intimacy at a more personal level…thanks for giving me a new way to think of it in terms of money. I can honestly say that people have often taken issue with me because I shoot from the hip…I say what I think and I have often gotten in hot water for!

    • This is an interesting follow-up to Sharon Cobb’s article this week on intimacy, isn’t it, Anita? So many facets. After all, in the end what IS intimacy? Acknowledging, interacting, engaging openly and honestly with something or someone …

  • Sharon, great post and great info! I totally agree with you too –
    “Knowing is infinitely easier than not knowing”… Thanks for sharing this article with us.

  • I loved how you talked about honesty and the physical aspects of money. Ignoring finances is a huge recipe for disaster!

    • Lisa, ignoring most ANYTHING is a huge recipe for disaster. As they say, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

  • I pretend all the time that I’m too busy when the truth is I don’t want to look at it lol Thanks for the reminder about what I need to do to get it in order!

    • Just pick one thing, Liz. Trying to fix all the ills is paralyzing … but one thing? Might just give you the impetus to continue … 😉

  • Honesty has always been my policy, a lot of the things I say bother people but that is not going to stop me. I have told lies in my life time, hey I am only human but I have always rectified by admitting the truth. I know the pain lies can cost and have been lied to before so I know the importance of being honest.

    • Out of curiosity, Karla, would you say you practice total honesty in what you do say, but avoid saying some things (omission) … or have you reached the level prescribed by Dr. Blanton of volunteering what you think (in total honesty)?

      • I feel I am totally honest, I don’t try to purposely omit things. What I do is I try to use gentle words when dealing with people, sometimes I fail at using gentle words but I try. The funny thing is that there is a pause before I give an answer and during that pause I talk to myself in my head and I say Karla you must tell the truth and it is a painful moment for me. I think the first thing I say to the person doing the truth inquiry is “alright, I am going to tell you the truth, don’t get upset”.

        • I think the key here is the phrase “the person doing the inquiry.” You are responding to an issue raised by someone, rather than volunteering “honest commentary” whether it’s asked for or not. Which is fabulous! And that little pause means you’re considering how the other person will receive it … 😉

  • Money is definitely the one area in my life where I’ve had the most problems. For years I was one of those who left the unopened bills on the counter because I didn’t want to know how bad it really was. I’m getting better, and the bills do get opened when they arrive now, but I’m still a work in progress where finances are concerned.

    • Helena, drop me a note at the email on this site and let’s see if we can take you a step or two beyond where you are today. You’ve started the process, which is terrific. One step deserves another, no?

  • Sharon, you do such a great job with such a HUGE subject.

  • Thea

    Dang — I sure am guilty of some of this. Thanks for the swift butt-kick!! You sure know how to serve up that good ole truth serum Sharon!! 🙂

    • A little bit of a “velvet hammer,” Thea? 😉 I figure if I keep bringing up different ways women can take care of themselves financially, they’ll find the ones that work best for them … and actually do them …

  • pat

    Thanks for the great post with so many good teaching points. I especially like “becoming aware is the powerful key to changing anything” as like you said, we lie to ourselves all the time!

    • Pat, I think just looking realistically at things … as I know you have … our subconscious starts working without us even realizing. That’s why “awareness” is so important.

  • Lisa Carter

    Sharon I was quite intrigued by the thought of our unhealthy financial habits being a learned habit from childhood! I never really thought about it, but I can see how when we really take a hard look at how we deal with finances, we must acknowledge this before we can change. Thanks for the post.

    • Glad it had some value for you, Lisa. More than just our financial habits are formed that early on, as we’re trying to figure out how life works. In those early years, our conscious brain is not yet fully formed so we lack critical judgment. Instead, we absorb everything into our subconscious as truth, and it stays there unless and until it’s readdressed later on and dismissed. It’s fascinating stuff, especially when you see what “innocent” events stay with us, yet distort our behavior decades later.

  • Diane DP

    Sharon, while I dont disagree with the idea of being radically honest with ourselves, in fact, there is a HUGE problem with being radically honest with everyone else, and that is that human nature is such that we would be telling al kinds of slander and unnecessary information that hurts the person we are talking with, or even someone we may be talking about. There is a most excellent book that I recommend, and in fact, there needs to be a great effort to FILTER what we say, so as not to hurt others even when what we may have to say is the truth. Fine line, of course easier written than carried out. See “Words that hurt, words that heal: how to choose words wisely and well” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Then, on the point of being honest with ourselves about money, I do suggest that it is something that we need to remind ourselves of on a daily basis, since we can often stray from our goals in the moments when they are difficult to work towards. And it takes only a moment to buy something impulsively, or commit to something irreversibly. My opinion, only.

    • Thanks for the recommendation of the Telushkin book, Diane! As I said, I too feel Blanton’s proposed radical honesty with others is too extreme but I was willing to use his book to reassess where I stand in my own communications with others … in case I can somehow improve. My personal goal is to keep learning and growing, and to do that I have to reach (read) beyond my comfort zone and then make an educated decision. As for honesty with ourselves, you’re right, it does need to be a daily dialog …