We can make a basic division between how we explain ourselves to ourselves and how we explain ourselves to others.
Explanations we give to ourselves are typically secret and known only to us. They can be quite crude and selfish at times.
In contrast, explanations of ourselves that we give to other people are generally “nicer.” We plead our case for being a “good person” by explaining at length whatever led up to whatever thing we did that needs explaining.
Of course, we have different explanations for different other people and even different classes of other people, but for now let’s just consider the two kinds of explanations—ones given to the self and ones given to others.
These two types are a good way to explain what is meant by honesty in a FIML discussion.
Simply stated, in a FIML discussion the explanation that I give to my partner of my words or deeds should be exactly the same as the explanation I give to myself. There should be zero difference between these two types of explanation.
A refinement of the above is that if there is a difference for some reason that I do not want to go into, I must tell my partner that the difference exists though I need not say exactly what it is.
For example, I may appear upset in a way that affects my tone of voice. My partner notices and asks about it. I know (my explanation to myself) that I am mildly upset because I just remembered a disturbing event from the distant past. If I do not want to talk about that event, I can excuse myself by truthfully telling my partner that, yes, I am slightly upset but it is due to an event from a long time ago and I do not want to talk about that now.
My partner will probably understand and drop the subject. By saying what I did I was completely honest with my partner, importantly confirming her sense that I was upset. At the same time I preserved my privacy in an area where I wanted it preserved.
Exceptions to the honesty rule like the one just described should be rare for most partners. If one or both partners have large exceptions that come up often, it would be best for them to gradually begin chipping away at these topics to reduce their size and influence.
For most FIML discussions for most people, perfect honesty—perfect accord between the explanation for the self and the partner—should be doable most of the time. Remember that the basic FIML discussion deals mainly with very small things that are generally not hard to be honest about.
When FIML partners keep their private and public explanations in perfect accord, they develop a sense of trust and contentment that cannot be achieved in any other way. They will not need to spend so much time “reading” each other (and thereby making frequent serious mistakes). Instead, they will know how to communicate on much more refined levels.
Note: I wonder if some aspect of a definition of morality might be that the two explanations described above are always in perfect accord and that when they are not, we have transgressed an important moral line.
As with almost everything individual or social, the two explanations scale up and down between individuals, small groups, and large ones. Some cultures have explicit rules for explanations given within the culture and explanations given to outsiders. In the case of gangs or criminal societies, these difference can be very large and very harmful to others.