The Hard Truth

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ― Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit

I’ve written about the topic of honesty before – a lot. Apparently, it bothers me when people aren’t honest. This time I’m not going to focus on liars. I’m going to focus on people who avoid telling the truth. They are the bystanders who feel the same way as the person who spoke the truth, but they would never say anything because they don’t want to appear mean and they are afraid of conflict.

They let the truth sayer take the fall.

You could ask anyone what quality they appreciate in a friend or a partner and one of the top answers will be honesty. Our society is always teaching such things as, honesty is the best policy, and the truth will set you free, but the truth is very few people actually want to hear the truth, especially from their friends.

The fact that they even think being honest is mean is disappointing. Honesty among friends should never be considered mean, rude, or in poor taste. Sure, how the truth is presented is important and sometimes it’s not done with enough tact. Regardless how it is said and how much it stings to hear it, if it’s honest, you should always appreciate it because it means they care enough about you to tell you the truth.

I can agree that there are some situations where telling a falsehood does no harm and does spare someone else from being embarrassed. It’s a slippery slope into full lies though. We start with an ingenuous compliment then next thing we know we are telling doozies that are designed to protect ourselves from taking accountability for a mistake.

The reason very few people tell the truth even when they think they should is because it’s hard. People get mad at you when you’re honest about something they don’t want to know.

Thomas Sowell said, There are only two ways of telling the complete truth – anonymously and posthumously. His quote made me laugh because it demonstrates how much people really dislike the thought of having to be honest.

Most people want their friend to agree with them and empathize without making any suggestions or recommendations. I don’t want friends who only tell me what they think I want to hear, and I don’t want friends who only say how they really feel about me behind my back. If a friend thinks I’m wrong about something or that I could change something about what I’m doing to make a problematic situation better, I want them to tell me. I might not think they’re right at first, but once it sinks in I’ll likely consider it because I trust their opinion.

I don’t see how you can call yourself a friend if you can’t be honest. Truth is the foundation of trust, so without it how will you ever know what to believe or who you can really depend on? If someone prefers to avoid conflict and would rather be phony so they appear nice, their relationships will always be superficial and fake.

If you lie to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid conflict, either the truth will come out or you’ll have to live with being disingenuous. If you tell the truth from the beginning, you will only be dealing with the hurt of the truth.

I can get over the sting of being told something that was hard to hear, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over being lied to by someone I wanted to trust.

 

 

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

Virginia Woolf

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”
Albert Einstein

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”
Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg

 

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2 thoughts on “The Hard Truth

  1. Define truth. Is opinion truth? Many times some express their opinion and call it “the truth.” Sometimes opinions disguised as “truth” are not solicited, but are given anyway. For example, my daughter’s “friend” thought it important to tell my daughter on her birthday in front of friends after a pool party that my daughter’s bangs were not “good bangs.” Her friend said, “I’m just being honest,” but her honesty affected the way my daughter felt for the remainder of her birthday. This is but one of many examples of opinion expressed as “truth.” There is a time for “truth” and the notion of truth varies from person to person.

    Is one being disingenuous if the absolute truth scares them? Are we not forcing all to fit into that little box if we expect truth at all times from everyone? Some people are extremely sensitive or private and don’t like to hear or express their truths/opinions in front of groups while others could care less about the “publicity.” Are we being good friends if we “tell the truth” without considering the personalities of the people around us? Should we expect the truth from those who have learned that the truth only hurts. I know one individual who was punished for honesty because her parents didn’t like hearing her opinions let alone her truths – children were to be seen and not heard. Such people need to learn that being honest is safe. A harsh response from the “truth teller” will only harden their resolve to refrain from telling the truth. Shouldn’t we consider the life experiences that drive whether or not an individual tells the so-called truth?

    Like opinions, knowing when to express what you deem as the truth is just as important as knowing when the truth will not be appreciated or helpful. In my opinion, you really have to know the friend you are with then you will know when and how they like to hear the truth. Just because we believe something is true, does not mean it is true. I don’t offer up my truths unless I am asked. Ask me what I think about anything and I will tell you my truth, but not everyone’s life experiences allow them such freedoms. We should consider ourselves fortunate to feel able to express our truths. Some just can’t and need help to do so.

    Thanks for raising a thought that is very close to my heart. Having a preteen daughter has brought back the intricacies of girls and how “mean/honest” they can be. I have learned a lot in the past couple of years about how “truth” can hurt especially with a daughter who wears glasses. Together, we have learned to navigate this truth-telling world and have discovered that some tell “the truth” to be hurtful because they are unhappy at home, while some actually believe they are being helpful. Teaching ourselves how to receive these “truths” has been character building for both of us and we are stronger for it.

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    • Well put, Jen. Thank you for bringing up two very important points about the definition of what a truth is and the importance of knowing when and how to use it – or not.

      I did forget to mention in the article that whenever we share information with a person, it should be done with the intention to help them not hurt them. I agree with your points about waiting to be asked and being accepting of different people’s comfort with hearing or sharing their thoughts and feelings.

      I love your last line: “Teaching ourselves how to receive these “truths” has been character building for both of us and we are stronger for it.”

      Thanks for taking the time to add depth to this discussion.
      Danielle

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