First, a big welcome to my new subscribers! I know that agreeing to receive email from someone is almost counterintuitive with how overloaded we all are, so thank you for being here!
I think several of you may have found me by way of my recent essay in The New York Times, “How Drinking Less Solved a Lot of Problems.” This piece (which is about my realization that just one glass of wine a day was causing more problems for me than it solved) is actually an extension of the honesty work I’ve been doing.
A few years ago, I was starting to feel powerless and frustrated in a world that felt increasingly dishonest. And then I had this thought: How honest was I?
I started keeping a journal where I paid attention to every honesty choice I made throughout the day. It turns out, I was missing a lot. All of this turned into a book, Would I Lie to You? The Amazing Power of Being Honest in a World That Lies (due out December 31 and available for pre-order now), where I bring in social scientists, philosophers, and etiquette experts to discuss honesty in the different areas of life. I also share my own stories, many of which were not at all easy to write about—like my marriage—but the deal with honesty is that once you’re all in, you’re all in.
The book may be written, but my journey is hardly over. All of this honesty work has given me a new way to look at the world and my actions. Basically, it’s created an urgency to examine the unexamined.
Several months ago, I started noticing myself complaining frequently about how the culture of drinking was exacerbating all kinds of problems, from issues of sexual consent on college campuses to all the annoying memes on social media about women and wine (memes which I used to laugh at). It hit me quite suddenly that perhaps I should shut up and look at my own life. I mean, I took selfies of myself with wine!
In the same way that I didn’t need to be a pathological liar to start paying more attention to my honesty, I didn’t need to be an alcoholic to start paying more attention to how I regarded a daily glass of wine, or alcohol in general.
I find that we pay A LOT of attention to other people’s behavior, but less to our own. And listen, we should pay attention to other people’s behavior, call out injustice, and fight for the things that matter. After reading books like How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, I am more committed than ever to issues of justice and equity. But the work we do in the world is hollow unless you look inside first.
So whether it’s wine, or racist jokes, or how you talk about your ex-spouse, or questions you dodge from your kids because you don’t know how to answer them, pay attention. If you find yourself railing against something (I LOVE to rail, believe me), just stop—physically pinch your lips closed if you need to—and examine your own behavior.
I can almost guarantee you that in the forced silence, you will see something you didn’t see before. Maybe it’s nothing terribly important. But maybe it’s something that will change everything.