Honesty - A Hard Pill to Swallow

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My mother used to tell me that she loved me enough to tell me "No" even when she knew I would hate her for it. At the time, I remember feeling suffocated and misuderstood. It took me many years to appreciate, or even understand, what she was talking about, and even longer to apply it to my own life.

Many times in life, we are faced with the difficulty of knowing when it may be best to be dishonest. We may even disguise it with the illusion of good; a "white lie". When your wife asks you, "Does this make me look fat?" or a potential employer asks why you are looking to leave your present position, it can be difficult to determine the difference between the right answer and the easy one.

I have been faced with this diliema numerous times throughout my life, and many times I have chosen the easy road. "No, those pants looks great," or "You did the right thing," usually ends up being the easier response for me, even if not the most honest one.

I had a friend throughout middle school and high school that was known for her sometimes brutal honesty. Near the end of high school and our first year of college, she was my official partner in crime. Together we tested the limits, broke the rules, and acted with little regard for the consequences. That is, until I crossed the line.

"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale." - Arthur C. Clark

"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." -Oscar Wilde

"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs." -Samuel Goldwyn

"Speak the truth, but leave immediately after." -Slovenian proverb

"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." -Franklin P. Jones

In all of the bedlam of boys and booze, I had become a monster; cocky, self-righteous, and what's worse, completely unaware. My mind had become clouded by the intoxication of walking into a room and feeling not just like a part of the party, but as if I was the party. In a short time I had built up a reputation for myself, a status that in my mind was much more glamorous than the truth.

And it was in a single e-mail; a few paragraphs highlighting the painful reality of my actions; the brutal honesty of one friend, that I finally realized what I had become. Even now, it is hard to look back at those actions and acknowledge them as my own.

Four months later my "partner in crime" was killed by a drunk driver, t-boned by an SUV less than a mile from the local bar, driven by a girl that could have easily been me, prior to my forced epiphany. And it changed my life in ways that I would never have imagined.

From that moment on, I began living my life with a "pay it forward" sort of attitude, making decisions with complete regard for possible outcomes, and accepting the consequences with the understanding that things could be worse. Don't get me wrong, I still know that there will always be a time and a place for "white lies", or my all-time favorite, the "omission of details", but I now also recognize the instances where brutal honesty is absolutely necessary. .

When it finally came time for me to "pay it forward", I once again struggled between the right decision and the easy one. I was watching a friend stumble down that same misguided path that I had crossed several years before, and was torn between the moral responsibility of telling her the truth and having her hate me, or holding my tongue and my friendship.

After several weeks of careful consideration (and procrastination), I made my decision, and I was right. She hated me for it. And the consequences that followed were painful at best, but I never once regretted my decision. And despite many months of silent spite, our friendship is now stronger than ever.

Sometimes when you truly care about someone, you have to tell them the truth, no matter how much it hurts, and even if you know they'll hate you for it. Life is full of tests; tests of strength, tests of character, and so on. And at the end of the day, I'd rather be graded on the actions I took rather than the decisions I avoided.

What do you think?

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Comments 13 comments

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

I agree...You can say anything you want...it's what you do that counts...and liar's have always been my pet pieve all my life...I dislike liars with my whole being...so glad you picked the right road...God Bless YouG-Ma :o) hugs & Peace

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

I also agree. And it sounds as though the car crash that killed your friend killed your old way of half-life.  You have many years ahead of you and you'll be a good friend to many others.

Be blessed.

mraymo profile image

mraymo 8 years ago Author

Thank you so much for the feedback G-ma & Patty! I think that honesty is so underrated now-a-days. It's nice to see that there are other people out there that agree!

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Writer Rider 8 years ago

So called brutal honesty can sometimes disguise insecurities.

mraymo profile image

mraymo 8 years ago Author

Thanks for your feedback, Writer! I agree with you on the insecurities, and I believe that my friend's "brutal honesty" likely started with insecurity. However, I also often wonder if she hadn't given me her opinion that day, if I might have been the one in the passenger seat on the way to the party that night. And for that, I suppose, I am grateful for her insecurities.

Elena. profile image

Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

Hi mraymo! Great article (and the quotes are super!), I loved your last statement, being judged for the actions taken rather than for decisions avoided. Fabulous!

Sterling Sage profile image

Sterling Sage 8 years ago from California

Great hub.

I agree that those who are too proud of their "brutal honesty" are not looking closely enough at their motivations.  I also think it's far too often that honesty is brushed aside as some unrealistic ideal.

There are plenty of excuses for dishonesty, but few legitimate ones.  Our world is slowly suffocating in a fog of confusion and distrust.  "The time of reckoning" is upon us; now we must choose the truth or suffer in a world without hope or meaning.

mraymo profile image

mraymo 8 years ago Author

Elena & Sterling, thank you for reading and for your great feedback!

abcd1111 profile image

abcd1111 7 years ago from Glen Ellyn, IL (Chicago suburb)

Interesting read. It's a difficult choice to be brutally honest. It depends on how the message is delivered and how vulnerable the recipient is.

Constructive honesty is better than destructive honesty.

I believe the main thing is to be true to yourself and the rest follows.

Test your honesty by reading one of my hubs and commenting.

Honestly? That was a shameless plug.

Truthfully? I want feedback.

RecoverToday profile image

RecoverToday 6 years ago from United States

This has got to be one of the most truthful, honest hubs written. I'm glad you fanned me. Your voice is bold. Thank you for this message.

Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

Honesty, grit, tenacity--this hub's got teeth. Good writing, good philosophy. Thumbs up!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Honesty is overrated, but then again so is lying. I enjoyed your article and especially your writing style and voice. I see you have not been around to respond for a long time so when and if you read this please do so. =:)

fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

I am totally agree with you. I think that to arrive at these considerations you needs a maturity that not all have. Your reflections are useful to all and in several moments of our life, so I thank you for share them with us.


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