Coming clean

3 min readOct 18, 2019
Picture courtesy — Victor for Unsplash

I dread the life of a defense lawyer.

They are faced with the task of defending clients who they know are guilty or need to talk themselves into believing that their clients are innocent. If they know they are defending someone guilty, the more stories they need to concoct to defend them.

One of the things criminal lawyers ask their clients before they take up their case is to be completely honest with them.

Did they actually commit the crime?

Are they hiding something?

Is there something they should know that will help them in their defense?

In numerous courtroom dramas, we have seen people take the stand and pledge to tell the truth.

But in reality, the oath is just a formality. Millions have lied under oath and will continue to do so to save themselves.

Professor Clayton Christensen says “It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”

What he means is in some areas, it’s good to have a set of non-negotiables. For instance, you can’t be relatively faithful to your partner. Or relatively honest.

One version of coming clean is the cold turkey method. This refers to the abrupt cessation of some activity. Cold turkey is what most people build their New Year’s resolutions around. ‘Today I am a sinner but once the clock strikes 12, I’ll become a saint.”

Going cold turkey is inspiring, but hard.

Coming clean, cold turkey, sticking to your principles 100% of the time, all of them mean the same thing.

And in certain areas, it helps to use this approach.

Looking at life entirely in black and white can be very painful. That’s why we have diplomats and compromises.

At the same time, coming clean on certain things can help us move forward.

“I am not where I am supposed to be.”

“I can’t take your attitude anymore.”

“This job isn’t making me happy.”

“I need to give up this habit.”

“I need to walk away from this relationship.”

“I don’t ever want to do business with you again.”

“That person brings the worst out of me and it’s making me feel worse by the day.”

“I spend too much time on social media.”

All of these, one some level, you can compromise on.

“I will just put my head down at work and not have any conversation. Then surely the dread I feel won’t be so much.”

“I’ll have just half a pack of chips instead of a full one.”

“I’ll just have one drink (the world’s biggest lie ever)

The thing is, some things can’t be solved using the relativity approach or by making compromises. What they result in is running around in circles, trying to preserve something that isn’t very good for you in the first place.

Can you compromise on the number of desserts you have in a week? Sure.

But can you compromise on an unhappy or unfulfilling job for long and still function normally? What about a debilitating habit that is keeping you from being more productive and is making you terribly unhappy? What about a relationship or peer group that is holding you back?

Coming clean is hard. But it is sometimes one of the best ways to make a clean break and start afresh.