I take pride in being honest and straightforward, which I try to be most of the time. I’ll be blunt, only if you’re deserving of my brutal honesty.
But I think honesty as “the best policy” has been taken too literally these days. Girl decides to dump her boyfriend on the account that he’s too boring and makes no attempt to soften the blow when she informs him of such. YouTube users posting scathing comments about an amateur musician’s weight. Telling someone that they’re too stupid to pass a class.
And then there’s the classic “Does this dress make me look fat?” scenario. You don’t have to tell the dress-donner that she looks like Mila Kunis in it, but certainly don’t respond with “Like a whale.” Expect some missing teeth with that second response.
Some folks are purely hot-or-cold when it comes to the issue of honesty. For them, it’s an any-honesty-is-good-and-all-lies-are-evil philosophy. I’m pretty sure the Jews who were saved by the people who hid them in their homes during the Holocaust would beg to differ.
If I was really honest about how I felt about you, would you still say all honesty is good if I had a poor impression of you? And would you consider my lie “evil” if it was to protect you, or to keep your surprise party from being spoiled? No? That’s what I thought.
In my high school Spanish class some years back, I remember sitting at my desk tending to my own matters, until my seat partner randomly asked me, “Do you like me?”
I could see that he was trying to prove a point to one of his friends, that he was a likeable person.
“Like, just in general?” I asked.
If had answered truthfully, it would have gone something like this:
“Well…based on your lack of motivation in this class and heavy reliance on my classwork for “help,” and the pompous air you’re giving off by assuming that I’ll answer ‘yes’ to satisfy your ego…not really.”
But mama raised me well.
“Sure, I suppose,” was all I said, which seemed to be a sufficient enough answer for him.
I don’t want my words to be the reason for someone’s bad day, week, or outlook on life. Although I don’t think some lowly freshman girl’s opinion of his character would have caused him to lose sleep.
Chances are, I’ll tell someone it was a pleasure to meet them, even if the experience was more torturous than walking on broken glass. When you’re driving me home and asking me if I mind the two-hour long Mumford and Sons playlist, I’ll probably say no and smile politely while listening to “Babel” for the umpteenth time. And it’s likely that I’ll say that your homemade vegan pizza recipe from Pinterest was so thoughtful, while chewing between bites of the cardboard. Because a) if I really don’t enjoy someone’s company, I won’t make an effort to prolong that relationship, b) if you’re being nice enough to drive me anywhere, I have no place to moan about your choice of songs, and c) I really would think your vegan disaster dish was thoughtful, so who am I to complain about a gift (especially if it’s food!)? But at least I’m purely honest about my intentions in all of this, and where my heart lies (no pun intended).
“I just don’t think we have much in common to date anymore.” “Keep up the good musicianship!” “If channel all your focus and energy into this, you might pass the class.” “Perhaps try this dress instead; it might flatter you better.” There are so many ways to go about the honesty dilemma. But honestly, I’m too hungry and tired right now to continue on about them.