Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Like It Is?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhy does it seem to me now that when someone says they are being "honest", someone's feelings get hurt? Or something really nasty gets said. I always remember my early school days and learning about "Honest Abe", and how honesty was a noble thing.

I remember years ago enrolling in a college program that required us to work at a Drug Rehab center. We received a somewhat brief education on "drugs" from a very knowledgeable woman. One of the things she said that stuck with me was "The worst thing about heroin is, it works." Pretty much what kept the addicts coming back for more. It worked, problem was, eventually it worked too well, to the detriment of the user.

So yeah, the point was that not all drugs that worked were good for you. And while I agree that honesty really is a good and noble thing, I do believe that it has its place. And it's not always a good thing, particularly when it's used as a weapon.

Think of someone posting photos of their kids, for example. Yeah, maybe those kids aren't models, but to that Mom or Dad, they are the most beautiful things on earth. Some might see those kids as hideous, but decorum dictates you keep that opinion to yourself, right? Telling that person their kids look like the southern end of a northbound mule might be "honest", but who the hell needs that?

To me, there are two levels of honesty. The important kind is the useful kind. If someone is entering their work in a baking contest, only the brownies taste like road apples, honesty might be in order to prevent hurt feelings or embarrassment. And it could lead to an improved product. After all, the Wright Brothers didn't get it right the first time, right?

The less important kind is the honesty that is wielded as an instrument of hurt, spoken for no other reason than to bring someone else down, or to achieve a sense of superiority in oneself.

I notice that with people who are honest, don't need to broadcast it or add it to their resume. People who make a point of telling everyone how "honest" they are are usually masking a complete sense of tact. In other words, to me it's like wearing a T-Shirt that says "I'm a Jerk!"

People who drink too much tend to get "honest". Alcohol reduces inhibition, and that usually lets someone know what the drunk really thinks. So then, how come we don't usually promote drunken behavior?

I don't think that when Honest Abe was in business, the concept of "brutal honesty" was any better than it is now. We've somehow molded honesty into a weapon and an absolute. I don't think someone telling me I look nice, when I don't, is a bad thing. Sure, telling someone you love them when you don't is a lie, and it's got some serious ramifications. Telling Mom the soup is delicious when it tastes like dishwater is class and tact, and hey, there's always the next meal.

Sure, sometimes honesty is painful. But it shouldn't be the only description. In my opinion, the wisest of people know when or when not to speak the truth.


  1. Absolutely...I do agree 100 percent.
    (then again, I might just be saying this to be nice)'ll never know, will ya?

    ; )


  2. dang, how can you always be right? it's true though, if you feel obligated to announce before hand "i need to be honest" whatever is going to follow probably doesn't need to be said - or can be said better by someone who doesn't have a foot in their mouth!

  3. Well said. I have a boss who prefaces all jerky comments with "I'm going to be honest with you" and the proceeds to tell us all how we didn't do things the way he did, so it must all be wrong and we don't have brains.

    In my college training we learned that validation is an important skill - so whatever a person says, you can find some bit of good to agree upon. I think that effort needs to be acknowledged, then corrected. But that's just me.

    I volunteered at an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility with a group of kids 14-18 years old. That was an eye opener, that's for sure. I always felt out of place when we had to introduce ourselves and name our drug of choice - mine was usually Advil.

  4. Honesty without tact is a cruel thing. Knowing when to speak the truth and when not to is all about context. And you're right, it takes wisdom to understand the context and know what to do.

    A friend told me recently that I have a gift for finding the words to say something in just the right way. It was a nice compliment, but it's not so much a gift as something I learned by saying the wrong thing so many times and bearing the consequences. At least that shows tact can be learned! :)


I love comments. I won't lie about that!