One of the things on my mind lately has been honesty. I really value honesty. It is one of the most important things to me, especially now with all of the dishonesty that has occurred in my relationship. Even before that happened, though, honesty was at the very top of my list of “must haves” in my life.
Growing up, I was often accused of being tactless. I would speak my mind, whatever happened to be on it. When my Mom got angry at me about something I said, she would call me “Mouth.” I think that description probably fit me well. I have to admit that sometimes I did say things that I didn’t need to say just for the shock value or to get someone out of my face.
One story that my parents love to tell is from when I was about 4 or so (I’m really bad with gauging children’s ages… even my own). We were part of a big church that was very boisterous (for lack of a better word). Although we were technically non-denominational, it was a Church of Christ. They believed in speaking in tongues, dancing in the aisles, and jumping up and down with the spirited gospel music that was always being belted by the choir and their bosomy lead vocalist. She was a wonderful, cheerful woman who had a ridiculous amount of children (12 or 14… something like that).
This particular day at church one of her many daughters (this one in her 30s at the time I think) came up to me and started talking to me in this baby voice about how cute I was, pinching my cheeks, and all that gushy, saccharine stuff. I hated that, even at such a young age. I looked her straight in the face and said “I don’t like you. Leave me alone!” Apparently at the time my outburst came across as funny. She laughed at me. That, of course, made me even angrier and I stomped away.
I got in trouble later for being “rude” and not “respecting” my “elders.” What about my personal space? How about respecting me by not treating me like a moron? Of course I couldn’t really articulate those feelings at the time, so I sulked. Obviously I have evolved a little bit since then. I know how to express myself much better, so I don’t resort to name calling or blatant “I don’t like you” statements.
There are a lot of things that haven’t changed since then, though. I find that people still seem to think honesty is amusing. Oftentimes people laugh when I say something honest, even when I’m not trying to be funny. I think it’s because they aren’t used to it. Sometimes they laugh because they are taken off guard – maybe they expected some platitude, rote response or common white lie. Sometimes they laugh because they feel uncomfortable. Sometimes they laugh because they think it’s a joke – after all, most comics that I’ve seen recently are just telling the truth. Real life is pretty funny!
In my adult life I have also come across people who seem to think being honest and straight-forward is a bad characteristic. I suppose part of that is because I work with salesmen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that way about all salesmen. One of the salesmen I work with is the most genuine, down-to-earth person who truly believes in the system and products that he is selling. Not all of them are that way, though. I can see now why salesmen have gotten a bad reputation. Even when they are selling a fantastic product or service there are some salesmen who just have that “slick” feeling to them. They are always looking for the best “angle.” I say the best angle is straight on. Beating around the bush and talking in circles doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable.
Since I was a little girl I have learned about tact, though. Not everything you think has to be said. And if it does have to be said there is often a way to soften the blow of bad news or critiques. I have found that pairing honesty with love is the best policy, especially in intimate relationships. The difference between being mean and being loving is immense when it comes to honesty. Thinking of the other person’s feelings is a really good thing as long as we don’t let it convince us that we would be “protecting” them or their feelings by not being honest. Because the truth is, I would take the tactless truth over a sweetly told lie any day!
I’m going to close with some great quotes about honesty and lying.
“A half truth is a whole lie.”
“A lie will easily get you out of a scrape, and yet, strangely and beautifully, rapture possesses you when you have taken the scrape and left out the lie.”
~Charles Edward Montague, Disenchantment
“A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”
~William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence,” Poems from the Pickering Manuscript
“Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it.”
“When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback.”
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
~ Mark Twain
“No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”
“Pretty much all the honest truth telling in the world is done by children.”
“There is always a way to be honest without being brutal.”